In the beginning, the Bucks had eight players and looked unstoppable. In the end, the Bucks had seven players and couldn't stop one. With Brandon Knight, Zaza Pachulia, and Gary Neal all sitting out due to injury, the Bucks suited up the bare minimum of active players, slotting Ekpe Udoh and Khris Middleton into another small-ball starting lineup.
Ultimately it wasn't enough, even against a young Magic team dealing with its own injuries.
Arron Afflalo scored a game-high 36 points, hitting 8 three-pointers and 11 of 15 shots overall as the Magic rallied from a 19-point first half deficit to ease by the decimated Bucks 94-91. Afflalo's hot start this season boiled over into a scalding display from behind the arc, missing only 3 of his 11 attempts from deep while adding 6 more points at the free-throw line. While a few of Afflalo's shots were just tough makes, he found himself largely uncovered behind the line far too many times, as Orlando's crisp ball movement had the Bucks racing to catch up and cover the Magic shooters.
The Bucks jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first period behind hot shooting from the entire roster. After 12 minutes, Milwaukee's team offensive rating was a stratospheric 148.8. O.J. Mayo led the Bucks with 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists, but was once again crushingly sloppy with the ball, coughing it up 6 times. Mayo's shooting has been a welcome addition to the roster in the first few weeks of the season, but his propensity for devastating live-ball turnovers has been a serious problem. After tonight, he has 27 turnovers and 23 assists.
Caron Butler did much of his damage in the early going, scoring 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter, but was forced from the game in the fourth quarter after suffering a shoulder injury. While chasing down a loose ball, Butler collided with Khris Middleton and appeared to hurt his left shoulder. He was in visible discomfort and appeared to have a limited range of motion with his arm as he walked off the court. In a postgame press conference, head coach Larry Drew said the nature of Butler's injury was unclear. A simple dislocation could shelve Butler for a few games but isn't likely to keep him out long-term, while a more serious structural issue (anybody else mind jump right to a certain northern Wisconsin clavicle?) could further cut into Milwaukee's already depleted depth. It would also might do wonders for Giannis Antetokounmpo's minutes, but no Bucks fan cares about, right?
Despite the Bucks' bristling first quarter, the Magic trailed by just 9 points at halftime and tied the game on an Afflalo 3 with just under 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The fourth quarter was played entirely within 6 points, and the Bucks trailed by just 1 following a pretty alley-oop dunk from Middleton to John Henson with 30 seconds remaining. The Bucks forced a lengthy possession on the other end, but a series of passes finally ended with Afflalo driving and finding Nikola Vucevic uncovered under the basket for an easy dunk to make it a 3-point game. The Bucks, out of timeouts, rushed the ball up the court where Mayo found himself trapped near the timeline before losing the ball to end the game.
Not that there weren't positives to take from the evening. Middleton had the best game of his brief pro career, scoring a career-best 19 points on 6-11 shooting (6-6 FT) in addition to 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Henson struggled with turnovers but had 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots, including one that ignited a thrilling fastbreak for Nate Wolters and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the video below courtesy of our buds at Bucksketball). Giannis finished with 6 points, 2 steals, and just one turnover in 19 minutes and was inserted into Milwaukee's closing lineup after Butler exited with 1:42 remaining.
The Bucks are off tomorrow before taking on the Indiana Pacers on Friday.