ORLANDO – Things are getting very emotional around the ole Amway Center, but the boys in blue used that to their advantage to beat the Phoenix Suns 112-111 in the final seconds last night.
The Suns, right now #2 ranked team in the west, were heavy favorites to take this game, with the Magic still battling injuries and front page trade rumors to gut out a win.
As with their loss against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, the Magic came out of the gates looking slow, lacking energy and focus. It could be assumed that the possibility of a change in the team roster might be in the back of the players minds, even though they all say it’s not a factor. But when you have two players that have been with the team for seven years seemingly about to be shipped out, things can get a little emotional.
The Magic managed to gut out a win, with Nikola Vucevic grinding out 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Fournier right behind with 21 points, including a clutch drive to seal the deal as well as rookie forward Chuma Okeke scoring a career high 17 points, going 4 for 4 from deep, it was an exciting example of what this team can do when they’re on point.
The Suns came into Orlando expecting the add an 8th game to their 7-game winning streak. Devines Booker and Chris Paul definitely got theirs, with 25 and 23 points and the team looked to cruise as the first quarter ground on. Phoenix is 14-6 on the road, tied for the second-most road victories in the NBA.
But, unlike Tuesday night, the Magic woke up and started grinding, taking the score back to a 44-44 tie with a little over 5 minutes left in the half, and even went into the half with a 59-59 halftime score.
From then on, the Magic and Suns battled back to back, clutch, seemingly automatic mid-range shots by Paul, Gutting spin-hooks by Vucevic.
But Phoenix aged to build an 11-point lead in the third quarter. It was time for Orlando to reach deep. Vucevic Managed to score 10 points in the third quarter, getting Orlando to within five points.
This was a gutsy with by the Magic. They dominated in points in the paint and second chance points, swarming the boards and battling Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder for rebounds.
With less than a minute left, the Magic, up bu three had a miscommunication and left Jae Crowder open for a three, tying the game.
Vucevic was fouled by Ayton at the other end, but only made one of two free throws, giving the Magic a one point lead.
All in all, there were five lead changes and five ties in the fourth period alone. The Magic ultimately won for a second time in the past 13 when Fournier rubbed off a Vucevic pick and finished over Ayton as the guard fell to the floor.
If its the end of Fournier’s Magical Journey, ithis would be a fitting end. He was emotional in his post-game press conference.
“I left my home (in France) where I lived with my parents when I was 13 and since then I never stayed in one place for more than two years, so the fact that I’ve been here for seven years says a lot,” said Fournier, who hit four 3-pointers and scored at least 20 points for the 12th time this season. “I had a son here, I got married and it means more than a lot. … If it’s the end, it’s the end, but I obviously love the franchise.”
The Magic are one of the centers of attention as the trade deadline lurks and Aaron Gordon and possible Fournier are expected to be dealt. Gordon did request a trade through his representatives, but is said to be having second thoughts.
As for the Magic, they face the Portland Trailblazers on Friday night at the Amway Center.