Scrimmage Preview: Magic vs. Lakers

Evan Fournier
by Dan Savage

Date: Saturday, July 25, 2020

Time: 12:00 p.m. ET

Location: HP Field House, Orlando, FL

TV: FOX Sports Florida/NBA TV

Mobile: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 96.9 FM the Game

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic tip off the second game of their scrimmage schedule when they face the Los Angeles Lakers at 12 p.m. ET.

Orlando spent its last two practice sessions emphasizing defensive ball pressure and going through drills designed to improve its high and side pick-and-roll defense.

Evan Fournier was extremely vocal during these sessions, setting the tone and standard for communication on the defensive end of the floor.

“I thought Evan was the key guy tonight,” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said after his team’s practice session on Friday. “We did, not a ton of five-on-five, but quite a bit, and he was constantly talking to his teammates about ‘get into the ball. Get into the ball, get ball pressure.’”

After going four-plus months without playing in NBA games, defensive communication is as critical as ever and an essential aspect for the team to work on during their scrimmage schedule.

“Listen, we’re going to make mistakes for sure,” Fournier explained. “And talking is the one thing that’s going to allow us to cover our mistakes. We can all help each other.”

On the offensive end, Orlando’s practice focal point centered around ball movement and quick decision making. The Magic are no doubt trying to quickly resemble the squad that ranked first in the NBA in offense over the last 12 games prior to the stoppage.

In & Out: Clifford should have his full roster available, outside of Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Markelle Fultz, who is still working his way back into game shape after arriving late to the NBA campus and missing the team’s first seven practices.

However, things are trending in the right direction. Both Fultz and Isaac participated in the full contact drills in Friday’s practice, marking the first time all of the Magic players at the campus were available for those sessions.

Rivals Report: For the Lakers, the postseason will be all about how far the LeBron James and Anthony Davis tandem can carry them. But, when it comes to the “scrimmage season,” the focus will be finding which two players can best replace Avery Bradley (opted out of the restart) and Rajon Rondo (fractured thumb) in L.A.’s lineup.

Expect extended looks at recent additions JR Smith, who hasn’t played in a regular season NBA game since November 19, 2018, and Dion Waiters, who signed with the Lakers right before the season paused in mid-March, to see if they can help fill some of the void.

Under the Radar: Later in the game, four players to keep an eye on are Orlando’s BJ Johnson and Vic Law and L.A.’s Talen Horton-Tucker and Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Johnson (second) and Law (sixth) both ranked among the top scorers in the G League this season for players on two-way contracts. Johnson posted 22.9 points per game, while shooting 42.3 percent from distance, and Law scored 19.7 ppg., while shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range, for Lakeland. As Clifford considers expanding the rotation both players will look to prove that they can produce at the next level.

THT was actually selected by the Magic with the 46th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but his rights were instantly sent to the Lakers in exchange for a 2020 second round pick and cash considerations. Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of Giannis, has the physical tools to be an impact defensive player, but like many prospects, his on-court awareness is still a work in progress. He averaged 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 0.9 steals per contest in 38 games with the South Bay Lakers, L.A.’s G League affiliate, this season.

Quote to Note: “I’m glad that you mentioned Evan because I want to give him a little bit of praise on how good of a veteran that he is. He’s super professional. He communicates. I tell him before every game, before every tip ‘be our heart and soul.’ Evan really wears his emotions on his sleeve. I just want to give him a little bit of props for not only being a good vet, but taking care of me.” – Mo Bamba on Fournier.

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