Preview: Magic without Evan Fournier in rematch vs. Nuggets
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
Evan Fournier is enjoying the best season of his career and a sprained right ankle will interrupt it.
How long the injury interrupts Fournier’s season is unknown, but it will prevent him from suiting up Friday night when the Orlando Magic host the Denver Nuggets.
Fournier is producing career bests in points per game (18.3), field goal percentage (47.8) and 3-point percentage (41.5). In his 13 games with at least 20 points, the Magic are 8-5 and 3-0 in his 25-point games.
Fournier scored 27 points on 12 of 21 shooting Wednesday when the Magic outlasted Atlanta in a 110-106 overtime win. He scored his final points on a floater on Orlando’s first possession of overtime, but his right foot landed on Nikola Vucevic’s heels.
The good news was postgame X-rays did not show a fracture, but the Magic were waiting for MRI results as of Thursday night.
“The ball’s got to move and we’ve got to continue to get great shots, but we’ve got bucket-getters on this team,” Magic forward Aaron Gordon told reporters at practice Thursday. “We’ve got to give people the luxury, the confidence and the encouragement to go and get us buckets. That’s what Evan is — he’s a bucket-getter, whether it’s a three, getting in the lane or off cuts.”
No matter how long Fournier’s injury lasts, it could put a strain on Orlando’s depth.
Rookie forward Jonathan Issac has missed 13 straight games with a sprained right ankle, and swingman Terrence Ross is out indefinitely with a fractured tibia in his right that he suffered attempting to block a shot Nov. 29 against Oklahoma City.
Regardless of who starts in Fournier’s place, the Magic are seeking consecutive wins for the first time since beating the New York Knicks Nov. 8 and Phoenix Suns Nov. 10. Since then Orlando is 3-11, though it is 3-2 since snapping a nine-game losing streak.
Without Fournier, the Magic will hope to get another productive night from Aaron Gordon and Vucevic. Gordon totaled 24 and a season-high 15 rebounds while Vucevic finished with 22 and a season-best 16 rebounds Wednesday.
“We’ve got other guys who can deliver — that’s the only way to look at it,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “(Fournier) will be missed, for sure, because we put the ball in his hands a lot, particularly down the stretch and throughout games as one of our primary playmakers. But we have other guys who are capable and now it’s time for them to step up.”
It won’t be the first time Orlando’s depth is taking a hit. Orlando dealt with point guard depth earlier in the season when Elfrid Payton missed nine games with a left hamstring injury and D.J. Augustin was sidelined for seven games with a strained left hamstring.
Denver is over .500 at 13-11 but mostly because of a 10-2 home record. The Nuggets are 3-9 on the road and during its four-game road skid, they are allowing 119 points, 53.4 percent shooting and 43.1 percent 3-point shooting.
Denver’s last four road games have been decided by a combined 85 points and the Nuggets are in a stretch of 12 out of 18 games on the road.
The Nuggets are without Paul Millsap for the long-term due to a left wrist injury and Nikola Jokic will miss his fourth straight game with an injured left ankle. The Nuggets are hopeful Jokic will return at some point on their six-game trip.
Without Jokic’s 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds, the Nuggets couldn’t stop DeMarcus Cousins (40 points, 21 rebounds) in Wednesday’s 123-114 loss at New Orleans. The Nuggets gave up 120-plus points for the sixth time this season and fell to 1-9 when allowing 50 percent shooting as New Orleans shot 53.5 percent.
“Let’s just talk about being real honest,” Denver coach Mike Malone said. “We are a bad basketball team on the road. We are a very good team at home. Unfortunately, in the NBA, you have to play 41 games on the road, and right now we are a bad road team.”
Denver also gave up 56 points in the paint and 14 second-chance points, which infuriated Malone, who hinted at changes if opponents keep getting 110 and 120 points.
“My message is stop feeling sorry for yourself (and) take pride in your defense,” Malone said. “Because if you don’t, the same thing is going to keep happening. I’m not gonna play the same guys over and over, when we give up, every single night, 110 or 120.
“It’s not in my nature. I’m not gonna sit there and watch that much longer, I’ll tell you that much.”
Mason Plumlee started the first two games of Jokic’s absence at center but Kenneth Faried started there Wednesday.
Denver is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. Jamal Murray scored 32 points and Denver shot 52.9 percent in its 125-107 home win on Nov. 11.
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