Evan Fournier’s postseason struggles have proved costly for the Orlando Magic

Evan Fournier has struggled to break free from a tough Milwaukee Bucks defense in the Orlando Magic's series. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
Evan Fournier has struggled to break free from a tough Milwaukee Bucks defense in the Orlando Magic's series. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images) /

A first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks was always going to be difficult for the Orlando Magic. But for shooting guard Evan Fournier, it has been especially tough.

The Orlando Magic went into the series against the Milwaukee Bucks as huge underdogs. For Steve Clifford’s side to stand a chance of recording an upset, he needed all of his key players to offer a significant contribution in every single game.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case for everyone on the Magic. In particular for Evan Fournier, who has really struggled to find his best form.

Evan Fournier started the series looking uncomfortable having missed the previous three games due to an illness. That kept him off the floor for the entire week and he was only starting to get back into rhythm heading into the playoffs.

In Game 1, he went scoreless until the fourth quarter in the Magic’s surprising triumph. He failed to make the most of his openings before sinking three pivotal threes to avoid an embarrassing zero-point return.

Game 2 saw a dismal shooting display from the Magic, scoring just 13 points in the first quarter while making only 35-percent of shots from the field during the course of the game. Fournier went 4 for 13 and made just one of his six threes in Game 2. While his shooting improved to 40-percent, he still struggled to score with just 13 points in Game 3.

With the Magic needing a victory to stay in the fight in Game 4, Fournier could only manage 12 points off 4-for-14 shooting and still looked out of sorts. He also struggled defensively to deal with Khris Middleton in a disappointing fourth-quarter collapse.

Fournier addressed his struggles after the game, telling reporters:

"“There are multiple reasons,” Fournier said after Game 4. “You have to give credit to the Bucks. Matthews is doing a really good job. They have a really good defense. They know everything about us. It’s also me being really out of rhythm. It’s a mix of everything. Tonight was probably the first time since the playoffs started that I feel like I had good looks and I just couldn’t make them. It is frustrating for sure, it’s upsetting and it’s disappointing.”"

Fournier said he did not want to use his illness as an excuse. He is playing and he expects more from himself.

For a player who averaged 18.5 points per game in the regular season, making him the Magic’s second-leading scorer behind Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier’s contribution in the playoffs has fallen way short of the required standard.

He is averaging 11.5 points per game and shooting a 43.3-percent effective field goal percentage. His scoring average is worse than it was in last year’s notable playoff struggle — 12.4 points per game on a 40.6-percent effective field goal percentage.

But coming off a career season for Fournier — one that looked like it might set up a big free-agent payday for him — this sudden downturn is certainly disappointing.

It is even more disappointing considering the absence of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Michael Carter-Williams and Mohamed Bamba has placed even more responsibility on Fournier’s shoulders.

When the Magic have shot well from three they have competed much more closely with the Bucks. Fournier’s ability to shoot from deep is vital for this team to succeed. But his unreliability in the playoffs has made the task a much more strenuous one.

The Magic know they are still at their best when Fournier is able to hit threes and work the pick and roll to shoot on-balance mid-range jumpers. Those are the kind of shots the Bucks tend to give up. Yet, Fournier has struggled to thrive.

Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews have done a good job crowding him coming off screens and the Bucks’ pick and roll defense has stymied him at every turn.

His pick and roll efficiency has dropped from 0.96 points per possession to 0.80 points per possession, according to NBA.com’s tracking statistics.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Fournier’s scoring off handoffs, a staple of the Magic’s offense, dropped from 1.01 points per possession on a 54.0-percent effective field goal percentage in the regular season to 0.2 points per possession on 0.0-percent effective field goal percentage. The Bucks have largely blown up the team’s dribble handoff game by shooting screens and trapping the ballhandler.

His scoring off cuts has been completely cut off — 1.69 points per possession on 0.6 possessions per game in the regular season to zero in the postseason.

The only thing he seems to be doing well is with his spot-up shooting that went from a 60.2-percent effective field goal percentage on 3.0 possessions per game in the regular season to an 83.3-percent effective field goal percentage on 2.5 possessions per game in the playoffs.

Obviously spot-up shots are the hardest shots to get against a good team in a playoff series. The Bucks have pinched down on every part of Fournier’s game and he has struggled to breakthrough.

Fournier’s struggles are very much a sign of how effective Milwaukee has been in stopping Orlando’s offense. And how little Fournier can create for himself against a strong defense focused on him.

Those are big considerations with Fournier entering either free agency this summer or the final year of his deal if he picks up his option for the final year of his deal. The Magic certainly have questions at shooting guard moving forward.

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Regardless of what the future holds for Fournier, he still has at least one more playoff game to try and climb out of his recent slump. And the Magic will certainly need him to extend the series another game.