Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier Shine Again in Win Over Pistons

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Since Steve Clifford took over as the head coach in 2018, the Orlando Magic have always put defense first. Injuries to key players this season and last has made it more difficult to consistently be among the very best on that end of the floor, but it certainly has never altered the mindset. The last several games, coinciding with getting more bodies back into the lineup, the Magic have acted on their words. Not many teams, if any, have been more locked in defensively lately than the Magic, who in addition to getting 37 points from Nikola Vucevic were stout again on the defensive end in Sunday’s 105-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. Orlando has now won four of its last five games.

Top Storyline

The way the Magic have been getting back in transition, contesting shots, running shooters off the perimeter, boxing out, scrambling after loose balls and playing firm interior defense without fouling the last few games, it’s been a challenge for opponents to get into any sort of rhythm against them. The Pistons were the latest to discover this, as Orlando held them to 37.4 percent shooting overall and 27.5 percent from 3-point range. Over their last seven games, the Magic rank No. 1 in the NBA in opponent second chance points, No. 2 in opponent points in the paint and No. 5 in opponent points off turnovers.

Top Performers

Fresh off becoming the second NBA center since 1985 to record a 30-point triple-double with zero turnovers, Nikola Vucevic delivered another gem with 37 points and 11 rebounds. It was his seventh 30-plus-point scoring performance this season. Evan Fournier, meanwhile, continues to shine since returning to the lineup last week. The 6-foot-7 Frenchman poured in a season-best 29 points, just three off his career high. Much of his scoring damage was done on the free throw line, where he knocked down 12 of his season-high 13 attempts.

Key Stretch

After the Pistons pulled within three with seven minutes and change left in the third quarter, the Magic went on a 13-2 run to reclaim momentum. Several contributed offensively during that stretch, including Al-Farouq Aminu, Chuma Okeke and Chasson Randle. Detroit missed all five of its shot attempts and turned the ball over three times in that span.

Key Stats

The Magic made 26 of their 29 free throws. They are now a perfect 5-0 this season when they take at least 29 foul shots and 18-8 since the start of the 2018-19 season. Orlando is now 10-2 when Fournier takes 10 or more free throws since he joined the team in 2014.

The Sidebar

The Magic welcomed 500 healthcare heroes from AdventHealth and the community to Amway Center on Sunday as part of Healthcare Heroes Night. In-game activities included a player introduction video that feature messages to honor the healthcare workers, a Hometown Heroes recognition and a healthcare worker selected for the fan countdown to tip-off. All digital assets inside the arena also included thank you messages to the healthcare workers throughout the game.

Quote of the Night

“We’re playing with energy. We’re playing with purpose. I like what I’m seeing. We started the game well and we finished it well. There’s a lot of positive. We had one or two stretches where we weren’t as good on defense, not executing. But we kept fighting and ended up getting the W.” – Fournier

Up Next

The Magic and Pistons will square off again at Amway Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. To limit the amount of travel this season because of the pandemic, teams are occasionally staying in one city for two or three nights and playing the same opponent twice during their stay. Early in the year, the Magic were in Washington D.C. for back-to-back games against the Wizards. The Cavs, Hornets and Bulls played the Magic twice during their one visit each to Orlando.

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