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Evan Fournier's struggles compounding Magic's offense slide

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As goes Fournier, so goes Orlando's struggling offense.

Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier protects the ball from Washington Wizards guard Garrett Temple during the second quarter at Amway Center.
Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier protects the ball from Washington Wizards guard Garrett Temple during the second quarter at Amway Center.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The slide continues. Over the last two and a half weeks, the Orlando Magic have won one of their last nine games, spoiling a great start, and falling out its playoff spot with just a 3.5 game lead over the 13th-best team in the Conference.

Wednesday’s loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers may have been rock bottom. I say may have been because it could get worse. Orlando has a chance to stop the bleeding against the Charlotte Hornets tonight, but after that most of its next 12 games are against teams firmly entrenched in the playoff races in either conference -- with a January 26 road bout against the Milwaukee Bucks being the lone exception.

At 20-21, Orlando is just under .500, and still has a shot at the playoffs if it can right the course. At the same time it's playing its worst basketball, and the team’s entering one of, if not the hardest, parts of its schedule.

Trial by fire it will be then, for a team that’s been ice cold. As Zach Oliver wrote earlier this week, the Magic is having trouble on both sides of the ball. The offense, though, has been of particular concern. Orlando has only eclipsed 100 points once over its abysmal nine-game stretch, and that was in a game that went to overtime. The team scored 100 points or more in each of the nine games before this recent stretch, so what gives?

There are a number of reasons you can point to, but one of the most noticeable differences has been the play of Evan Fournier. Earlier this season, Fournier was having a breakout year as the Magic’s go-to scorer. He was the biggest surprise on one of the league’s most surprising teams. He reportedly turned down a four-year, $32 million contract, and for months it looked like the right decision. But even Fournier hasn’t been able to weather the recent storm.

Over the last nine games, Orlando’s shot 42.2 percent from the field. Scoring has been like pulling teeth. Is it really a coincidence then, that the Orlando player that once made scoring look so easy is struggling at the same time as the rest of the team? Surely the two go hand-in-hand, or at least have some overlap.

Since January 1, Fournier’s been shooting 38.9 percent from the field, down from his 44.1 percent shooting before the New Year began.

Take a look at his shot chart up to December 31, and then a chart of his shots in the games since.

Fournier Shot Chart pre-Jan 1

Evan Fournier's shooting this season through December 31.

Evan Fournier Shot Chart post-Jan 1

Evan Fournier's shooting since January 1.

Two of the biggest takeaways: his shooting from the perimeter has been noticeably worse, and he’s taken significantly fewer shots at the rim. When Fournier was running on all cylinders earlier this season, he was capable of knocking down timely threes, and was great at attacking the basket. His recent dip in efficiency and scoring -- 14.4 points per game before January 1, 10 per game since -- can be attributed to his struggles in those areas of the floor where he was so effective earlier this season.

Fournier’s certainly not the only Magic player to run into problems over the last nine games (Victor Oladipo, conversely, has thrived during that time), but because of his play in the opening months of the season, it’s more troubling. The Magic need to make scoring a little easier, and he played a big role in making that happen early on.

If he can find his groove again, maybe things will open up, and the rest of the team will follow suit.