Recap: Bucks 98, Magic 80

Box Score / AP Recap

Wow. 

If you just saw the final score you might say "wow" because the Bucks blew out a 58-win team by 18 points.  But if you actually saw the game then you'd know I mean it in a very different sense. 

As in, wow, did the Magic just field that team?   With their playoff seed locked up, Stan Van Gundy opted to rest Dwight Howard and the injured Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, meaning his starting lineup read thusly: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, Tony Battie, and Marcin Gortat.  Wow indeed.

The Bucks didn't seem to play all that well, but the Magic (or what was left of them) shot so horribly that it didn't matter.  Both teams were sloppy in the first, but the better-rebounding Magic (or should I say, Marcin Gortat) nabbed a six point edge after a quarter.  It didn't last.  The Bucks came out looking frisky in the second and ripped off a 14-2 run, with Joe Alexander scoring the final seven. 

And that was pretty much it.  The Bucks were +13 in the quarter and the Magic never mustered a credible threat in the second half despite some reasonable looks at the bucket.

I'm not sure if I should feel sorry for Ben over at the terrific Magic blog Third Quarter Collapse or not: on the one hand this had to be the most mind-numbing game a Magic fan could possibly watch, but on the other hand how nice would it be to have the luxury of resting Dwight Howard?  OK, I think on general principle I can't feel sorry for anyone who has Dwight Howard on the roster of their favorite team--sorry, Ben. 

On a separate but more positive note, one member of the Bucks had better things to do tonight--Luke Ridnour and his wife were celebrating the birth of their son, Traden Lukas.  Congrats!

Three Bucks

  • Richard Jefferson.  We're grading everything on a curve tonight, but RJ was the Buck's most consistent offensive weapon with 24 points (on 17 shots) and seven assists.  It's not like he's racking up monster assist numbers lately, but it's been nice seeing him do more facilitating.  And while I don't have the data to prove it, it seems like he's getting the ball more near the middle of the court and spending less time facing up in isolation situations from the corner/wing areas.  
  • Charlie Villanueva.  Villanueva barely played in the second half as Skiles gave Alexander an extended look, but he played a key role in blowing the Magic's B team with 12 points in the second quarter and another six in the third.  All told, 18 points on 12 shots to go with seven boards, a turnover, and a block in 20 minutes.  He was hacking left and right (four fouls) but this was a night where you could get away with it.
  • Ramon Sessions.  In truth it didn't seem like Sessions played that well, yet he still nearly managed a triple double with 19 points (4/11 fg, 11/12 ft), eight boards and seven dimes.  Some careless turnovers, too, but tonight was a good night to get the sloppiness out of his system.  His floater wasn't working, but he just kept attacking and drawing fouls against Tyronn Lue and company--and playing deep into garbage time helped, too.  

Three Numbers

  • .318/.111/.733.  The Magic were just awful from the field--and they seemed to get some decent looks, too.  I guess talent does matter in basketball.  Huh...
  • 18.  The Magic's offensive rebound numbers (18) were inflated by their propensity to miss shots, but can you imagine how badly they would lost if they didn't grab 30.5% of their misses?  The weird part is that the Magic are actually one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the league (23.9% of misses, 28th in the league) even with Dwight Howard.  Unfortunately, the Bucks couldn't contain Marcin Gortat (10 pts, 18 rebs), who has been an exceptional rebounder when he's played the past two years.  He's not quite Howard on the boards, but his 20.4% rebound rate isn't too far off of Howard's league-best 21.8%, either.
  • 25-13.  The Bucks dished out 25 assists, below their lofty standards of late but still a very good figure on most nights.  Less impressive: Orlando dished out just 13 assists, reflective of their reliance on offensive rebounds to stay in the game.

Three Good

  • Flip the switch.  Maybe it just took the Bucks a quarter to realize who they were dealing with.  After a ho-hum start, the Bucks outscored Orlando 53-36 in the middle periods and coasted from there.
  • See Joe Play.  It's very possible the Bucks use Joe Alexander as trade bait in a cost-cutting move this summer, so it's been nice to see him get some minutes late in the season.  Whether he's shown the Bucks enough to stick around is unclear.  Tonight it was a tale of two halves, as JA looked plenty explosive in scoring 11 in the second quarter alone, helping the Bucks seize control of the game heading into the half.  But after making his first four field goals and first three free throws, the law of averages kicked in hard--Alexander missed his final six field goals and a pair of freebies to boot.  Final line: 11 points (4/10 fg, 3/5 ft), four boards, four dimes, two steals, two blocks, two steals.  If this kid could ever harness his ridiculous athleticism, look out.  Key word: if.
  • Might as well win.  As much as I understand the benefits of better lottery odds, I've never been able to root against my favorite team.  As a resut, I'll take wins no matter how meaningless (or perhaps even counterproductive) they might be.  

Three Bad

  • Fair fight.  It's not that I wanted to see Dwight Howard break Dan Gadzuric in half, but that won't prevent me from complaining as a fan.  It's never as fun to beat the C-team, is it?
  • Fourth quarter.  The final minutes of the fourth were a joke...I'm not sure the term "garbage time" has ever been more appropriate.  Special nod to Keith Bogans for showing off some of the razzle dazzle we knew he didn't have.
  • Closing time.  It's now been three years where the date of the final home game has been known well in advance.  And in truth, even when the Bucks made the playoffs in 05/06 you knew that taking one or two gamess off the Pistons would be about as good as it was going to get.  I'll spare you my season-ending thoughts for now, but with 41 home games in the book it's reasonable to be a bit disappointed--that things didn't go as well as it we hoped they might, and that despite all the frustrations we have to wait another six months before we see NBA hoops in the BC again.
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