Like many of the Celtics past acquisitions, Evan Fournier probably wasn’t the main choice, but he’s now contributing in ways that no player has for Boston in a long time.
At the NBA trade deadline on March 25th, the Celtics brought in Fournier from Orlando for two second-round picks. With the Magic, Fournier was averaging a career-best 19.7 points, 3.7 assists and almost three boards shooting 53.6/38.8/79.7%. The shooting guard gives Boston not only three-point shooting and another scoring option who can make plays anywhere on the offensive end, but someone who adds desperately-needed depth to take pressure off of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown (when healthy), Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker. In my opinion, the Celtics have filled the void left by Gordon Hayward with some of the $28M trade exception well.
The way Fournier’s tenure began in green certainly isn’t ideal for any player. His first game as a Celtic had to be put on hold for a few days due to a false-positive COVID-19 test and he ended up playing in just four contests before testing positive again, this time legitimately. Those four were a bit of a rollercoaster ride as his debut consisted of an 0-10 shooting performance (0-5 from three) making him the first player in history to do so in a first game with a new team.
Struggling to catch a rhythm in the first two games, scoring just six points, it seemed as if Fournier was just beginning to gel before he came down with the virus. Against the Houston Rockets on April 2nd at TD Garden, he caught flames in the fourth quarter drilling seven of his eight shots with six threes (three in a row, five out of six baskets) helping him put up 23 in 30 minutes, 7-11 from deep, 8-13 from the field.
“It feels good obviously, but it feels even better that we got the win,” the nine-year veteran said. “It’s my first win as a Celtic, it’s just a good overall night. I’m going to enjoy my glass of wine tonight and sleep very well.”
The next game against the Charlotte Hornets at home, the 28-year-old had 17 and was 4-5 from three (5-9 from the field) with six assists in 22 minutes off the bench. Fournier had the hot hand just before missing the next two-plus weeks in quarantine.
It was very unfortunate for the Celtics and their fans. Fournier was just beginning to find his groove. He made 10 of 11 triples before going out and signs were pointing towards early chemistry developing.
Fournier’s acclimation was disrupted yet again because of the after-effects of COVID-19. Missing nine contests forced him to lose his flow as Fournier only scored 23 points in the next five outings, bricking 29 out of 37 shots.
On May 2nd. Fournier suddenly snapped out of it against the Portland Trail Blazers. The guard was aggressive from the jump as he ended with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals on 8-10 shooting, five of seven from deep and these two awesome plays that almost helped Boston come away victorious.
Indeed he was, as Scal said, “doing his Marcus Smart.”
Following the much-needed performance, Fournier explained to the media how he still wasn’t feeling 100%.
“I’ve been feeling quite weird, to be honest,” he said. “It’s like I have a concussion.”
He was completely open when describing how he felt health-wise.
“At times I am really struggling to focus and my eyes keep struggling focusing on one thing… My depth perception is really bad right now.”
Expressing his dedication in wanting to get as much work in as possible, his knowledge and excitement of his new home, Fournier said all the things Celtics fans want to hear.
“It’s very unfortunate, the timing of things. Obviously, I’m new here, so people don’t really know my game and know who I am and it’s just terrible timing,” he said. “I get here with high expectations and ambitions, trying to make a run and for the first time in my career I have an opportunity to make a really deep run into the playoffs with a team. So it’s kind of a golden opportunity for me to finally be with a great team and the fact that I got COVID and now I’m feeling like this, it’s heartbreaking, to be honest.”
The Frenchman then never looked back, scoring no less than 15 points with nothing short of six field goals in the remaining six games of the season.
Fournier has been scorching in his last seven games scoring 139 points while shooting an eye-opening 54.6/56.9/66.7% giving him averages of 19.9 PPG, four rebounds and almost five dimes.
Here’s one of his games from that span, just over a week ago, which is his best game as a Boston Celtic thus far.
It may have been, like many of the games this season, a disappointing loss in a crucial game, but Fournier made a statement against the Miami Heat.
He dropped 30 points and shot 11-16 from the field, 7-11 from long-range with eight assists, three boards and a block.
In 16 contests with the Celtics, Fournier is putting up 13 points per game, three rebounds and assists with a steal as well on a red-hot 44.8/46.3/71.4% and a +/- of 44.
With Brown being sidelined for the remainder of the season and the next three months due to his wrist surgery, the Celtics probably don’t have the highest of ceilings, but that doesn’t mean the postseason can’t bring any sort of joy.
Boston won their play-in game over the Washington Wizards thanks to Tatum’s third 50-piece in just over a month. Fournier wasn’t anything too special as he went 3-11, but his eight, four and six with two triples had me tweeting:
Boston hasn’t had a complimentary piece that provides consistent shooting most nights in a very long period of time.
We all know the resilience Boston has shown year-after-year as they continue to gain more and more playoff experience. With the late play of Tatum along with Fournier and Walker, Boston can definitely at least make things interesting with the Brooklyn Nets when Game 1 tips off Saturday, 8 p.m. on ABC at Barclays Center.
“We hope to have him around for longer than just the remaining part of this year,” President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said.
Photo: (Yahoo Finance)
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