Magic vs. Bucks Preview | The lottery race continues as Orlando rolls into town

USA TODAY Sports
13/14 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(12-50, 7-26 home)
vs.
Orl
(19-45, 4-29 road)
March 10, 2014
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Jameer Nelson
Nate Wolters SG Arron Afflalo
Khris Middleton SF Maurice Harkless
Ersan Ilyasova PF Tobias Harris
Zaza Pachulia C Nikola Vucevic
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.7 (26th) Pace 93.8 (16th)
101.6 (27th) ORtg 100.9 (27th)
110.5 (30th) DRtg 106.6 (17th)

On the MagicOrlando Pinstriped PostMagic Basketball

Magic update. Let's start with the all-important lotto standings: Orlando is currently third in the race to the bottom, "trailing" the Bucks by seven wins and Philly by four wins while ranking three wins "ahead" of the Kings/Celtics/Lakers/Jazz cluster.  Any chance of the Magic finishing second were likely ended when they toppled the pathetic Sixers twice in the last two weeks--but the Bucks know how that goes.

Interestingly, they may have the most to lose by finishing the season on a high note--finishing third guarantees them no worse than sixth in the draft, while a late season surge could conceivably vault them to seventh, which would mean they could drop all the way to tenth. Isn't it less stressful being a Bucks fan?

Winning tonight will be further complicated by the potential absence of Victor Oladipo, who hasn't played since March 2 due to an ankle sprain. He's been moved to the active list for the first time in a week tonight, though for now we'll guess that Bucks killer Arron Afflalo starts at the two, second-year wing Maurice Harkless likely opens at the three and Tobias Harris moves back to the four after coming off the bench against the Spurs' twin tower lineup on Saturday.

Tobes and John. Even with Kyle O'Quinn starting at power forward to counter San Antonio's Tiago Splitter/Tim Duncan twin towers, Harris still managed to score a tidy 23 points on 16 shots off the bench. And while Harris' overall numbers are still off the pace he put up last spring after the infamous trade that sent him to Orlando from Milwaukee, he's lately been showing more regular flashes of the scoring savvy that made us all so depressed last spring/summer/for eternity. In the 10 games since the all-star break: 19.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, .522/.375/.870. Gulp.

Meanwhile, John Henson is trying to carve out minutes in a big man rotation featuring such luminaries as Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova and Jeff Adrien. Though he's shown some signs of life with 12 points in each of the last two games, Henson is still averaging less than 20 mpg over the last four, and you can't help but wonder whether he or Larry Drew is interested in seeing Henson make the most of the last month of the season. To be clear, I'm not sure Henson is going to be the guy Bucks fans are hoping for no matter how many minutes he gets, but at this point it's kind of depressing to think how little the next four weeks matter and yet we're actually seeing less of Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo than in December.

LIGHT IT UP! LIGHT IT UP! Before the all-star break, the Bucks offensive/defensive efficiency: 96.5/106.6. Since the all-star break: 111.4/112.7! After slumming at the bottom of the league's efficiency table for the first three months of the season, the Bucks have suddenly become an offensive juggernaut, with the caveat that their defense also makes every opponent look like an offensive juggernaut, too. I guess this is what happens when you only put forth an effort on one end.

Much of the credit goes to a monstrous 33.3% offensive rebound rate--thanks Jeff Adrien!--good for first in the league since the break, though they also rank a very un-Bucks-like 14th in eFG%. The Bucks making shots--who woulda thunk it?

Everything coming up Bucks. As we have noted about a million times, the Bucks haven't won two games in a row all season, but they do have a few numbers going in their favor tonight (all usual "losing may be for the best!" caveats apply). No, really:

  1. By virtue of having lost on Saturday to the Wizards, the Bucks are eligible to win tonight.
  2. The Bucks are the proud owners of a two-game Monday winning streak! Apparently this is a thing, as long as you realize it's mostly random and meaningless.
  3. The Bucks also own a one-game winning streak against the Magic, whom they edged 104-100 on February 18 in Milwaukee.
  4. The home team has won the last seven games in the series, so that's also pointing in Milwaukee's favor.
  5. The Magic are the only team with a worse road (4-29) record than the Bucks' home record (7-26), which says everything you need to know about the Bucks' season. Also, this means that they should theoretically be favorites tonight, right?
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