I’m officially starting to get concerned about Evan Fournier. The Orlando Magic wing went scoreless for the first time at this EuroBasket. Group A hosts France defeated Russia 74-67 on Wednesday. Even though the 22-year-old helped orchestrate that impressive fourth quarter comeback along with Rudy Gobert, Joffrey Lauvergne, Nando De Colo, and Charles Kahudi, Evan has now not made a shot in 3 consecutive games. Fournier was 0-for-3 in 15 minutes of action, only adding 1 assist and a steal.
It’s a good thing Gobert and Lauvergne proved they could play in the frontcourt together, because Head Coach Vincent Collet is getting some very inconsistent play from his wings. With elimination in their sights, Russia played a hell of a match. It was a tight affair with Russia leading by 6 points with 7:50 remaining. France wouldn’t regain the lead until De Colo drained a triple to put the hosts of Group A up 66-64 with 2:55 left in the contest. Russia is out. Far removed from the 2007 EuroBasket crown and a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.
France is 4-0, but play one final game in Montpellier before moving to the knockout stage in Lille. They take on Omri Casspi‘s 3-1 Israel squad as they actually are in second in Group A. Israel has looked better than I anticipated, but France should win. Tip-off is Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST. For momentum sake, I’d like to see Fournier actually bury a field goal before we get to the Round of 16.
Wednesday’s EuroBasket performance by Janis Timma was a representation of his Latvian team: Solid in the first quarter, unable to finish in the second half. Janis Timma finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes. Latvia though suffered a disheartening Group D defeat to Ukraine, falling 75-74. Timma shot 3-of-5 in the 8 minutes of first half action he saw. Janis went scoreless though in his 13 second half minutes, going 0-for-4 from the field and missing a few shots late in the contest.
Down go the 2013 FIBA Americas defending champs. Orlando Magic players Andrew Nicholson and Melvin Ejim helped Canada beat up on hosts Mexico on Tuesday night, winning 94-73. Both players were on the court at the exact same time for 19:18 total as they dominated the second and fourth periods. It’s the first defeat Mexico has suffered in this tourney. Lucky for the hosts, we’re still in the second group stage, so no elimination.
Nicholson finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 assists, and 1 steal on 5-of-10 shooting. ‘Drew is finding his confidence again at the appropriate time. Not to be outdone, Ejim tallied 12 points, a game-high 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 assists, and 1 block on 5-of-7 shooting. I think Ejim shouldn’t be counted out come Magic training camp, he does a lot of dirty work that Scott Skiles will fine mighty useful.
Orlando Magic rookie Mario Hezonja saw his minutes decrease in Croatia’s 73-55 Group C victory over FYROM on Tuesday. Why? Part of it was the return of Bojan Bogdanovic after missing some tourney time to recover from a hard fall he took on his head. Still, Hezonja didn’t even start, which means that it’s possible Head Coach Velimir Perasovic may have been looking to teach the 20-year-old a lesson. Or I’m exaggerating and today was just a good day to give Mario some rest while getting Bogdanovic back into game flow.
Whatever the reasons, Mario only played 11 minutes and tallied 1 point, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal. Mario was 0-for-2 from 3-point range. Bogdanovic started at SF instead of SG as Don Draper and Roko Ukic partnered up together in the backcourt. Dario Saric led all scorers with 15 points, while Bogdanovic notched thirteen. You see the three assists, and you’ll notice that Hezonja had a few beautiful dishes to Luka Zoric.
Not shown was a thunderous dunk Mario threw down that ended up not counting. It got the Zagreb fans roaring though anyway. Not a good day, but not an awful outing for Hezonja.
Croatia improves to 2-1 in group play at EuroBasket and they host the Netherlands on Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST. Croatia is in second place in Group C behind undefeated Greece, and just ahead of Slovenia who is also 2-1. But remember, Croatia beat Slovenia on the first day of the tourney. We’ll see if Hezonja will get back in the starting lineup, or if Mario will have to adapt to coming off the bench some more. Either way, he’s making an impact even when he’s not hoisting up a lot of shots.
Orlando Magic fans should be thrilled after the outstanding games both Andrew Nicholson and Melvin Ejim had coming off the Canadian bench on Monday night, in what was each player’s best performance at the FIBA Americas competition in Mexico City. Canada got their 5th striaght victory by crushing Uruguay 109-82.
Andrew Nicholson finished with 15 points (3 offensive), 10 rebounds, and 6 assists on 6-of-8 shooting (3-of-3 on 3s) in just 17 minutes of action. Andrew also had a game-best efficiency score of 29 which is fantastic considering 7 Canadians scored in double figures. One of those also being Melvin Ejim who tallied 11 points, 6 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 assists, and 1 steal on 4-of-5 shooting in just 13 minutes of action. Both men were fantastic.
France have not looked sharp in their quest to repeat as EuroBasket champions, as Poland would prove on Monday. France did improve to 3-0 in Group A, winning 69-66, but former Orlando Magic big man Marcin Gortat barely missed a good 3-point look that could have sent the game to overtime. That’s two very tight games in three days in a group that I expected France to cruise through.
Magic wing man Evan Fournier played 11 minutes, but only tallied 2 points and 2 turnovers on 0-for-2 3-point shooting. It’s two consecutive quiet matches for Evan now as he can’t seem to make a big impact on this star-packed team.
As usual, Fournier came off Vincent Collet’s bench. On the random, Tony Parker‘s first made bucket put him #1 all-time on the EuroBasket tournament scoring rankings. He surpassed Greek legend Nick Galis. Galis needed 33 games to score his 1,030 points. This was Parker’s 62nd EuroBasket match. Galis was a beast in the ’80s and ’90s.
Anyway, Evan checked in with 2:24 left in the first period. With the final seconds of the quarter winding down, Evan drove to the hole and almost threw down an enormous left-handed jam as you can see in the photo above. He got fouled as the ball just came back out of the rim. Evan made both free throws, and it was 14-14 after the first ten-minute session. Who knew that Fournier wouldn’t score again after such an aggressive take.
Evan checked out four minutes into the second period without getting up a shot with France trailing. Evan’s defense was respectable. Rudy Gobert and Marcin Gortat were terrorizing each team with their defensive paint protection abilities. Offense was not pretty for much of the first half. France had the 30-26 halftime advantage.
Fournier back in with 2:25 left in the third period as France was up 48-41, but Poland was battling despite Gobert making life miserable for the team in red. Evan’s first official field goal attempt was a NBA distance 3-pointer that just bounced off the front of the rim, but Florent Pietrus came in with the tip-in. The French led 52-47 entering the 4th period.
Evan started the fourth. Fournier didn’t get to do much of anything other than missing a 3-pointer, and he checked out with 7:16 remaining in regulation with France up 56-51. Just couldn’t find a rhythm this game. Give Poland’s coach Mike Taylor credit for helping keep Poland in the contest to the very end with a solid game plan. It didn’t hurt that Poland made a large number of triples.
France will have a useful day off on Tuesday, before continuing Group A action again in Montepellier on Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST. The hosts will take on a Russia squad that is fighting for progression as they’ve had a bad tournament with the weak squad they’ve brought to France. Hopefully Evan’s offensive role will grow in this contest.
Janis Timma, property of your Orlando Magic, earned his first ever EuroBasket start on Monday for Latvia. After tasting defeat against Lithuania on Sunday, Latvia knocked off a solid Czech Republic team, defeating them 72-65 in Riga. In 22 minutes, Timma notched 7 points on 3-for-6 shooting (1-of-4 on 3-pointers), 8 rebounds, and 1 assist. Plenty of valuable contributions from Janis in a must-have Group D contest.
Other than the 4 turnovers, Timma had a very good game by helping spread the floor, playing solid defense, crashing the boards hard, and even setting some nice screens for some key Latvian buckets. Latvia shot 47.4 FG% while they held their opposition to only 37.3 FG%.
While many Orlando Magic fans were celebrating the Labor Day Weekend Sunday Funday, there were Magic players participating in FIBA action. To be honest, some struggled and that’s why I’m lumping everyone together in one summary. Let’s take a look at EuroBasket action first.
Greece Takes Down Croatia as Mario Hezonja‘s Role Increases
Mario Hezonja was already starting along side Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric on the wings. But with Bogdanovic suffering a concussion on Saturday and being ruled out for this Greece game, Croatia needed to rely even more on Hezonja. ‘Super Mario’ didn’t have a great game, as the confident shooter hoisted up a few airballs. His best quarter was by far the third period. Croatia led the majority of the contest, but Greece came back to win 72-70 in what was a thriller of a match to watch. Hezonja tallied 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and a block on 3-for-10 shooting (2-of-8 on 3s) in 27 minutes of action.
Mario did have a nice bucket to put Croatia up late, 67-66, during the seesaw battle. This match shifted Group C power to Greece. I don’t expect Croatia to lose another game in front of their great Zagreb support, and should be poised to take second in the group. We’ll know what knockout stage implications that will have on the seeding later this week. I wouldn’t worry about Mario. He’s 20 years old, he’ll learn. Other Croatians need to step up as well like Ante Tomic and Dario Saric. Krunoslav Simon can’t keep doing everything for them.
Croatia has the day off on Monday, so they don’t play until they face FYROM on Tuesday. 1-1 Croatia should get back on the positive track having already faced the two toughest Group C competitors in Slovenia and Greece.
Orlando Magic wing player Evan Fournier and his French national team had a scare on Day 1 of EuroBasket action. The Group A hosts needed overtime to defeat a pesky Finland team 97-87 on Saturday. Evan Fournier tallied 8 points on 3-for-7 shooting (2-of-3 on 3s), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in 17 minutes off the bench.
This guy is going to be so much fun in an Orlando Magic jersey. I’ll be telling myself that a lot these next few weeks as Mario Hezonja had a very successful EuroBasket debut for Croatian senior national team on Saturday. Croatia defeated Slovenia 80-73 to begin Group C play 1-0. Croatia’s 43-25 rebounding advantage was immense in the result.
Mario Hezonja finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting (2-for-5 on 3s) as well as 6 rebounds, 1 assists, and 1 steal in 24 solid minutes. The 3 turnovers are not a big deal since he handled the ball a lot despite playing on the wings. Slovenia’s fans traveled very well to Zagreb, while of course the Croatians provided a beautiful atmosphere to fulfill their part.
In the morning practice leading up to today’s game, Mario was the last one to leave the court. Taking jumpers in anticipation for his first EuroBasket. Mario got the start, and I’m a big fan of Croatia’s Starting 5.