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Celtics hoping Fournier will make debut against Thunder

/ 08:18 PM March 27, 2021
Evan Fournier Orlando Magic

FILE – Evan Fournier #10 of the Orlando Magic dribbles in the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Amway Center on March 19, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Julio Aguilar/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Julio Aguilar / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Boston coach Brad Stevens is hoping newcomer Evan Fournier will have a big impact after joining the Celtics on Thursday in a trade with the Orlando Magic.

Fournier could make his debut as soon as Saturday, when Boston takes on the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

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“He’ll be a high-minutes player,” Stevens said. “We’re certainly going to count on him to do what he does.”

Fournier’s exact role remains to be determined. He hasn’t come off the bench at all since 2016-17, but Stevens could use him as a sixth man or shuffle the lineup to start the veteran.

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Either way, he’s expected to boost Boston’s depth. The Celtics are near the bottom of the league in bench scoring, averaging 32.0 points per game.

“I think it’s been pretty evident that bench scoring, whatever form it comes in, whether he’s off the bench or the others off the bench, is a necessity,” Stevens said. “And so I think that that’ll be a real positive, and we’re excited that he’s joining us.”

Fournier, who was in his seventh season with the Magic, was averaging 19.7 points and 3.7 assists, both career-highs, in 30.3 minutes in 26 games before the trade.

The Celtics’ other two deadline acquisitions, Moritz Wagner and Luke Kornet, joined Boston for their 122-114 win at Milwaukee on Friday.

Wagner played 10 minutes in the win, while Kornet is still awaiting his Celtics debut.

The win was just the second in seven games for Boston.

While Boston has performed below expectations this season, Oklahoma City has performed above expectations after going into rebuild mode in the offseason.

The Thunder’s deadline moves were aimed at the future, though, as they traded veteran George Hill to Philadelphia in a three-way deal that brought them 23-year-old center Tony Bradley and veteran guard Austin Rivers as well as two future second-round picks.

Rivers especially doesn’t figure to be in the Thunder’s long-term plans.

When — or if — Bradley or Rivers joins the team remains in flux, though, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said Friday.

“There’s not a lot of clarity yet on what that’s gonna look like,” Daigneault said.

The Thunder have won two of their last three, though they’re coming off a 116-107 home loss to Memphis in their first game since leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was ruled out for a “significant amount of time” with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Even before Gilgeous-Alexander’s injury, Daigneault was tinkering with his rotation, giving young players like Aleksej Pokusevski, Isaiah Roby and Moses Brown extended looks.

That doesn’t figure to change the rest of the way.

It also likely means Mike Muscala’s role will remain limited. Muscala is averaging a career-best 9.7 points per game, but he has played in just one of Oklahoma City’s eight games since the All-Star break.

“Mike understands where we’re at,” Daigneault said. “He’s the ultimate professional, and he’ll stay ready. There may be times where we’re calling on him.”

Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye missed Friday’s game after leaving Wednesday’s loss early with a left side strain.

Saturday’s game is the first of two meetings between the teams this season. Boston hasn’t lost in Oklahoma City since December 2016.

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TAGS: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Evan Fournier, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, OKC Thunder, Orlando Magic
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