The Bucks fought valiantly and got a little better each quarter, but fell 108-101 in Orlando. Milwaukee stayed within striking distance most of the game and then struck in the fourth quarter, but the Magic ultimately iced the game at a fitting place: the free throw line.
Richard Jefferson. He didn't exactly outplay Hedo Turkoglu, and didn't add a ton in addition to scoring, but RJ had his jumper working tonight and delivered an efficient offensive performance with 25 points on 11-16 from the field.
- Andrew Bogut. Bogut swished a pair of righty hooks against the league's top shot-blocker to lead off the game en route to making his first six shots from the field. He thoroughly outplayed Dwight Howard, who was limited to 11 minutes due to foul trouble, in the first half. Bogut scored all 16 points before the break. Unfortunately, the Aussie's night finished unceremoniously. He picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and then departed to the locker room with a left knee contusion.
Charlie Villanueva. On consecutive plays in the first quarter, Villanueva scored an and-one on Dwight Howard and then drew an offensive foul on the opposing center. Helping get Howard into early foul trouble made CV an unsung hero early on. His offense arrived later; he finished with 17/9 along with 5-5 from the line off the bench.
- 65. Milwaukee attempted 87 field goals (making 40) compared to just 65 (making 31) for the Magic, in large part because...
54. The Magic made 37-54 free throws, a truly stunning number of attempts, aside from the fact the extreme fouling is getting typical.
1. Dwight Howard swatted six shots alone and the Bucks only had one block, via Luc Mbah a Moute in the fourth quarter.
- No cigar, but close. The Bucks have marched into plenty of difficult environments already this season, but refuse to lay down and lose. Michael Redd and Ridnour were out, and Bogut only played 22 minutes before heading to the locker room. The Bucks were losing virtually the entire game, and the result never appeared in doubt. And yet the Bucks trailed by three with less than half a minute. The Bucks lost the first quarter by ten points, lost the second quarter by one, tied the third quarter, and won the final period by four. This team is simply more likable in losses than last year's bunch.
Second round, not second rate. Elaborating on the above point, even in off-games, guys like Ramon Sessions and Mbah a Moute continue to find ways to contribute, which is a big reason why games like this end up closer than it seems they should. Sessions suffered a bad shooting night but finished with 7/6/8 and Mbah a Moute's and-one dunk late in the fourth was huge. They both added a couple steals and always fit in well within the team concept.
- Lue's dues. There is an unwritten rule that players who airball layups don't make Three Bucks, thus Tyronn Lue's omission. But the backup point guard did well to add 14 points and 5 dimes on 5-10 shooting without a turnover. In fact, Tyronn Lue (+2) and Malik Allen (+4) were the only Bucks to post positive differentials, which is pretty hard to believe.
Time at the line. The Magic lived at the free throw line, with Milwaukee giving them a helping shove in getting there. In the span of less than four minutes in the second quarter, the Bucks even managed to foul Orlando twice on three-pointers. Charlie Bell clobbered J.J. Redick behind the arc, not a brilliant idea since Redick can: a) shoot threes b) shoot free throws, and c) not do much else. As such, Redick converted the four-point play. A few minutes later Joe Alexander ran over Rashard Lewis on a three. It beats passivity, but the bad fouling also helped beat the Bucks, especially disconcerting since it was a close game at the end. There was a lot of rightful intentional fouling against Howard, but nearing 40 fouls is under no circumstance justifiable. The Bucks' bench had more fouls (22-20) than the entire Magic team.
Backing up. The Bucks' injury issues continue to mount, and it's forcing major depth chart modification. Malik Allen and Dan Gadzuric combined for 10 fouls and 3 points in 21 minutes, which is apparently possible. Allen's offensive foul with the Bucks down 95-90 really hurt, too. Meanwhile, Sessions combined with Charlie Bell to form a rather clanky backup-starting-backcourt. And the burlier Jameer Nelson bullied Sessions bit, driving into the lane at will multiple times prior to straining his groin.
Winter WondOrlando. Milwaukeeans woke up to snow-covered ground this morning, a sight which should become all too familiar for the next three and half months. The Magic stormed to an early lead, hit an avalanche of free throws, and 3/5 of Milwaukee's starters went cold. Add that up, and the Bucks had almost snow chance, even in the Sunshine State.