It’s not secret the Orlando Magic have struggled to get to the free throw line this season.
Coming into Wednesday nights game with the Denver Nuggets, the Magic were last in the league, averaging just 18.1 attempts per game. Wednesday night once again saw the Magic struggle to get to the free throw line, attempting just eight, their lowest mark of the season, beating the nine they attempted in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.
At times, it became frustrating for the Magic, with both Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier being called for technical fouls, including a second in overtime on Fournier following him fouling out of the game.
Despite hitting a season-high 20 three-pointers, the Magic’s inability to get to the free throw line, coupled with Denver marching there left-and-right, hurt the Magic the most. The frustration was clear amongst the players, with guys imploring the fans to get louder when they were booing the officials.
“Nothing, it was just terrible,” said Evan Fournier when asked about what happened on the technical foul called on him in overtime. “It’s the same thing everyday, man. Everyday we come in and see that we’re 30th in free throw attempts, [and] nothing changes.
“We’re one of the teams that never complains, [and] every time we say something, we get a technical. It’s just terrible. I think tonight it was 33-to-6 [free throw discrepancy]. Numbers talk, man.”
The frustration boiled over, and it likely cost the team some.
Fournier, who knocked down six three-pointers, all from the left corner in the second half, was on of the key cogs that allowed the Magic to stay in the game. If not for his hot shooting from beyond the arc, Denver, who continually threw haymakers at the Magic, likely would’ve run away and blown them out once again.
“Of course, it’s frustrating man,” said a slightly emotional Fournier when asked if the frustration boiled over. “We’re fighting hard, [and] it’s okay to not get the calls, but sometimes it’s just unfair. You can’t have that. It’s just not possible.
“I was fronting [Nikola] Jokic, dude is [a] seven-footer, I was not even grabbing him. I had my two hands up, it’s just not a foul. It’s just terrible, man. We’re one of the teams that never complains, never, and that’s why we all get frustrated. We never complain, and we never get the calls and now if we start to say something, technical after technical. What is that?”
Fournier, who led the team with four attempts from the line, was not the only one who didn’t mince his words about the officiating.
Aaron Gordon, who did not attempt a free throw for the sixth time this season, was also clearly frustrated with how the calls went against his team. The passionate forward came close to a technical of his own as he contested a call he felt was wrong.
“It’s horrible,” said Gordon when asked about the free throw discrepancy. “It’s horrible.”
“Of course,” said Gordon after he was asked if it begins to wear on the team after a while. “It’s just tick tack after tick tack that they get, then we come down, same kind of play. Feels like the refs are more worried about what’s on the front of the jersey than watching the actual game.”
The free throw differences aside, the Magic’s inability to defend in the pick and roll was an equally big issue. Whenever the Nuggets used Jamal Murray and Jokic in that scenario, it picked the Magic apart and spread out the defense.
“So, you know we can look at all those other things, did they step out of bounds, the foul differential, all that, the bottom line is we couldn’t guard a high pick-and-roll which is hard to do, but we gotta do a lot better [job] than that,” said Steve Clifford after the loss.
The Magic still have a long way to go in their development and learning to win games. They’re going to have to get to the free throw line more often than that, and be more aggressive with the ball to do so.