Fournier helps Magic stave off Heat
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Evan Fournier came to the rescue Wednesday night, something he might not have been able to do in previous years.
The maturity is more obvious now.
Fournier scored 23 points, including seven in the last 2:28, to lead Orlando to a 116-109 victory over the Miami Heat in the season opener for both teams.
The Heat erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and pulled within two when the Magic pulled out of their skid by turning to Fournier, now in his sixth NBA season.
Fournier hit a 3-pointer from 25 feet for the 108-103 lead. He hit a finger roll for a 112-107 advantage, then sealed the victory with a driving layup for a 114-107 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
“It was time to make something happen,” Fournier said. “Coach called the play, and it was time to get things done.”
It was the first time since 2012 the Magic won their season opener. They never trailed in the second half, although the Heat closed within two points before Fournier took control down the stretch.
Heat center Hassan Whiteside posted game highs with 26 points and 22 rebounds. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback that fell short.
The Magic rode a well-balanced attack with six players scoring at least 12 points. Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Terrence Ross had 15 points. Aaron Gordon scored 14, and Elfrid Payton had 13 points and nine assists. Reserve Jonathon Simmons added 12 points.
“He (Whiteside) was great,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But he could score 40 with 30 rebounds, and if we don’t defend, those numbers are empty. We were on our heals virtually the entire night. The Magic had us reacting rather than imposing our will on the game. Give them credit.”
The Heat put seven players in double figures. Goran Dragic had 17 points and six assists. Dion Waiters had 15 points, including seven in the fourth-quarter rally. Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk and reserve Justise Winslow each had 10 points. James Johnson had 11 off the bench.
After trailing by as many as 17 points early in the quarter, the Heat closed within 105-103 on two free throws from Dragic. They closed to 108-105 on a Whiteside layup. Fournier put an end to their rally.
“I didn’t like the way we played in the fourth until the end. We made mistakes but still came out with a win. You can learn from that,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “I‘m excited we got the win and encouraged about where we could be when we correct all the mistakes we made.”
The Magic held a 51-44 rebounding edge and a 11-2 advantage in fast-break points. The Magic shot 47.8 percent from the field and was 8 of 21 from the 3-point line. Fournier hit three of his five 3-point attempts.
Orlando led 88-78 going into the fourth quarter. The lead jumped to 17 points early in the fourth when rookie Jonathan Isaac scored on a short jumper.
The Magic scored the first seven points of the second half, capping the run with a 3-pointer by Fournier. They led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
The Magic led 58-55 at intermission, riding a well-balanced start with five players scoring between seven and 11 points. Gordon had 11 points and six rebounds in the first two quarters. Vucevic had nine points and eight rebounds.
The Heat led 37-32 after the first quarter but managed only 18 points in a cold-shooting second quarter. Whiteside had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds by halftime.
Each team led by as many as seven points in the first half.
“It’s tough to win in this league. It really is,” Spoelstra said. “If we’re going to get where we want to go with this group, we’ll have to commit to all the little things defensively.”
NOTES: The Heat and the Magic opened the season with rosters that were very similar to the ones they ended with last season. The Heat (41-41) returned 11 players from last season. The Magic, despite winning only 29 games, opened with nine returning players, including the same starting lineup. “We have continuity,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said. ... The Magic tried until Monday but failed to reach contract extensions with fourth-year players Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon. Both now will become restricted free agents this summer. ... Heat rookie G Matt Williams made his NBA debut Wednesday in his hometown, where he played at Jones High School and then at the University of Central Florida. ... The two teams opened last season in Orlando, with the Heat winning by 12 points.