Evan Fournier Hits Winning Layup as Magic Beat Suns in Thriller
One of Evan Fournier’s greatest strengths is his courage. So many times since joining the Orlando Magic in 2014, the 6-foot-7 Frenchman has stepped up and delivered in the clutch. That is precisely what transpired on Wednesday night, as Fournier, the subject of much trade speculation with the deadline just hours away, connected on a go-ahead driving layup with 6.4 seconds remaining to lift the Magic to a thrilling 112-111 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Fournier’s shot in the final seconds, which could turn out to be his last in a Magic uniform if he’s dealt away prior to the trade deadline, wasn’t his only big basket of the night. He buried a baseline jumper with 50.9 seconds remaining that put Orlando up three. Jae Crowder tied the game for Phoenix with a 3-pointer on the next possession. Nikola Vucevic followed with a free throw and Devin Booker, who finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, nailed two free throws that gave the Suns a one-point advantage with 19.4 seconds left. The Magic prevented Booker from getting a clean shot off before the buzzer by forcing him to dribble into no man’s land underneath the basket.
Vucevic posted 27 points, seven in the fourth quarter, 14 rebounds and four assists. He shot 11-of-19 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. The 7-footer has already knocked down 117 3-pointers this season, 19 more than all of last year. Fournier, meanwhile, recorded 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting overall and 4-of-9 from downtown. During the 2018-19 season, he had two game-winning buzzer-beaters. In 2015, in a win over the Timberwolves, he had a clutch 3-pointer in overtime in the final seconds.
Chuma Okeke delivered his best performance of his young career. The 22-year-old, playing in his 28th game with the Magic, registered a career-best 17 points on a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, four of which came from beyond the arc. After spending last season in Lakeland with the Magic’s G League club to rehab his knee injury, the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder has shown encouraging signs throughout this season. He has a high basketball IQ, a ton of defensive versatility and is developing into a confident 3-point shooter.
A big difference between Tuesday’s loss to the Nuggets and Wednesday’s win over the Suns was the Magic’s interior defense. After surrendering 60 paint points against Denver, Orlando gave up just 34 to Phoenix. Also key was the Suns scoring just eight second-chance points. The Nuggets had 16 of those on Tuesday.
The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. The Magic have made a move three of the last four trade deadlines. In 2017, Orlando acquired Terrence Ross and a future draft pick from Toronto for Serge Ibaka. In 2019, Markelle Fultz was sent to the Magic from the Sixers in exchange for Jonathon Simmons and a future draft pick. Then last year, Orlando added James Ennis III, also from Philadelphia, which in return received a 2020 second round draft pick.
Quote of the Night
“The fact that I’ve been here for seven years. I had a son here. I got married. It means more than a lot. It’s kind of hard to put words into it. I got traded (to Orlando) when I was twenty-one only. I’m a totally different man. I’m a totally different player. I have a lot of love for the franchise and people that work here, you guys (media) included. If it’s the end, it’s the end. I obviously love the franchise and the city.” – Fournier
The Magic will complete their three-game homestand on Friday when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers at 8 p.m. Portland is currently in sixth place in the West at 25-18. They are, of course, led by Damian Lillard, who is averaging a career-best 30.1 points per game and is certainly in the MVP conversation. The last meeting between the Magic and Blazers was on Feb. 9 when Lillard scored 36 in a Portland win, while Vucevic led the undermanned Magic with 27 and Ross poured in 22.