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Practice notebook: Fournier’s struggles and poor starts

In this notebook, Zach looks at Evan Fournier’s struggled, and how the Magic have struggled to start halves.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Fournier’s struggles

It’s no secret that Evan Fournier has struggled through the first three games of the Orlando Magic’s series against the Toronto Raptors.

Fournier has played a team-high 105 minutes in the series, but has struggled to get anything going. His shots have continually come up short, or clanked long off the rim, leading to him posting a 28.6 percent field goal percentage, including 25 percent from beyond the arc.

Friday night he made just one of his 12 attempts from the field, a corner-three late in the fourth quarter that pulled the Magic within seven with just under four minutes to play. His struggles on the offensive end have spilled over into the defensive end as well, with Fournier losing Danny Green and others on multiple occasions for open shots.

Despite his struggles, Magic coach Steve Clifford opted to stick with Fournier, over Jonathan Isaac, who kept the Magic alive early in his game with his shot making and play on the defensive end.

“No, just because of the ball handling, passing, second pick-and-roll part,” said Clifford when asked if he thought about coming back with Isaac for Fournier. “Like when we have D.J. [Augustin] out there with Terrence [Ross] with Evan, there’s more room on the floor and we’ve got really three guys who can play in the pick-and-roll. So that, by the numbers, is our best offensive team.”

For a team that struggles to manufacture offense like the Magic do, keeping Fournier out there does make sense. His ball handling, and driving abilities can open things up for his teammates, and put more pressure on the defense.

Still, the Magic are going to need to get more out of Fournier if they have any hope to push this Raptors team any further than five games.

Following the teams practice on Saturday, Fournier said that he needed to play the game more free.

“Poorly, obviously,” said Fournier when asked how he handled his bad game. “Had a rough night. I just need to let go, kinda. Let go, kinda let the game come to me. When stuff happens I have to make [plays]. [It’s] pretty simple, actually. I just have to do it. Obviously I’m very frustrated and disappointed with my performance last night.”

While the frustration will linger, Fournier is going to have to have a short memory with his poor play. With a seemingly must-win game four on Sunday, the Magic are going to need Fournier to find some balance, and be able to bring forth the play that he had in the final few weeks of the season.

Without better play from Fournier, the Magic’s season will likely be coming to an end much sooner than any of them were hoping it would.

Poor early play

After starting off game one relatively well in Toronto, the Magic have been unable to get anything going in the opening minutes.

Much like their lopsided game two loss, the Magic struggled on Friday night with the Raptors ball pressure, and active hands. Almost before you could blink, the Magic were down 10-0, and had committed four turnovers.

The poor starts aren’t just in the opening quarter either, but have spilled into the beginning of the second half as well. Toronto has mad adjustments and continued to blitz the Magic out of halftime, taking them out of anything that they might’ve had going before that.

“Less turnovers, and more purposeful play,” said Steve Clifford when asked what more he needed from his starters. “That was the problem last night to start the game, and the problem in the beginning of game two.”

When the Raptors have gotten into them, and forced turnovers with their length, and strong defensive’s schemes, the Magic have failed to stick to their game plan and play the way they had been playing when they finished the regular season 22-9. Their purpose of play — from off ball movement, to driving into the painted area, to their ability to find open shots — has gone by the wayside, and they’ve struggled to get it back.

“Just play better offense,” said D.J. Augustin when asked about what the team needs to do at the start of halves. “Our defense has been great. Just try to control some of their main guys. Our offense just has to be better. Get a good shot, not forcing things against their bigs. Just play together.”

Finding a better flow on offense, while keeping the defense playing at a high level is the trick for the Magic.

Dating back to the early portion of the season, when the offense would miss shots, they would begin to press, and it would take away from their play on the defensive side. Now, with their backs against the wall down 2-1, they’ll have to be able to make adjustments and continue to play with better offensive purpose early, while keeping their energy up on the defensive end.

If they’re able to do that, then they could be bringing the series back to the Amway Center for a game six next Thursday.