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Recap: Magic 117, Bucks 92

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Box score

It's strange to call a 25-point loss "progress," but the Bucks haven't been setting a very high standard lately, have they?   And unlike Monday night's game against the mediocre Bobcats, the Bucks actually showed some spunk in leading the defending East champs by eight at half and by seven with four minutes remaining in the third. Isn't relativism fun?

Early on it was a balanced attack--well, everyone aside from Mike Redd--as Andrew Bogut's 3/3 start helped the Bucks to an early 10-point lead.  Luc Mbah a Moute finally started ahead of Carlos Delfino as the Bucks were firing on all (well, most) cylinders for the first time in ages.  And while the Magic quickly closed the gap, the Bucks hung tough.  Redd finally got in on the act with a pair of buckets in a 6-0 run late in the second quarter, helping the Bucks to a 49-41 edge.  Not bad at all, and a nice response from another embarrassing loss on Monday.

Then reality hit--and a whole lot of Magic three pointers.  Jason Williams' perfect 5/5 performance highlighted an Orlando three point barrage that caught the Bucks flat-footed in the second half, as the Magic scored 38 in both the third and fourth quarters to not only erase a halftime deficit, but blow the game wide open early in the fourth. Vince Carter led the way with 25 points (15 in the third) on just 16 shots.

Even so, the Bucks pulled to within 79-76 on Warrick's jumper with 11 minutes to go, but the Magic answered with a 14-0 burst in less than four minutes.  Pietrus buried the first triple before Williams nailed a pair in the flurry, all of which came with Marcin Gortat (24 min, 4/6 fg, 9 pts, 7 rebs) filling in nicely for the foul-prone-but-effective Dwight Howard (24 min, 8/11 fg, 17 pts).

Three Bucks

Brandon Jennings: 32 min, 20 pts, 7/19 fg, 4/7 threes, 2/3 ft, 4 ast, 2 reb, 2 stl, 1 to
Not a great raw fg%, but Jennings took care of the ball and had it going from deep, which means his overall efficiency wasn't quite so bad.  Jennings' line was also pretty palatable when compared to Jameer Nelson's: 1/7 shooting and the only negative differential (-12) of the 10 Magic players who saw action.  Jennings and company had far less success containing Williams, though on some level you'd prefer to give him open shots rather than some of their other guys. Ah well.

Luke Ridnour: 21 min, 16 pts, 7/10 fg, 2/3 threes, 4 reb, 1 ast, 2 to
Similar game to the Bobcat loss for Ridnour--good shooting, no real playmaking, and some ugly plus/minus numbers (a team-worst -20).  Still, Ridnour was a steadying influence off the bench throughout, filling in nicely for Jennings to bridge the first and second quarters.  It looked like he might do the same in the third/fourth, but after five quick points to end the third, he along with the other Bucks could only watch as Orlando made their move in the early fourth.  Can't expect a whole lot more from the vet.

Andrew Bogut: 29 min, 15 pts, 6/15 fg, 3/3 ft, 10 rebs, 1 blk
Bogut was under 50% shooting for the fourth straight game, but it was at least promising to see him rebound from his benching on Monday by aggressively (and successfully) going at Dwight Howard early on.  Bogut dropped in a short hook and a putback before he drew two quick fouls on Dwight--the first on a three point play midway through the first, the second by drawing an offensive foul on Howard 13 seconds later.  Unfortunately Bogut followed Howard to the bench just 17 seconds later with his own foul trouble, and a nice 13 point first half (5/6 fg) was followed by a dud in the second--just 1/9 shooting, though a number of those misses were on tips or missed shots that he rebounded himself (six offensive total).

Three Numbers

76-43.  I mean, wow.  The Bucks got the business in the first half of Monday's loss in Charlotte (56-34), but that didn't compare to the thrashing they suffered in Orlando. 

75%.  We all know what the Magic can do from deep, and so it's perhaps not surprising that a 1/9 Orlando start from three helped the Bucks take their surprising halftime.  But it didn't last--the Magic ripped 9/12 triples in the second half to finish 10/21 from the game, while shooting 56% from the field overall.  Skiles' comments from the post-game:

"In the first half we were really conscientious about closing out with a hand up and getting them off the line.  In the second half we came out a few times with our hands down, and waited until they rose up to shoot. It's a little too late with a team that can shoot the ball that well from three.  And when teams go on these runs, not only don't we stop them, but we can't get a basket."

18.  The Bucks didn't shoot well as usual, but their work on the offensive glass at least gave them a fighting chance for about 40 minutes.  Almost half of the Bucks' 39 total rebounds came on the offensive end, as Bogut led the way with six. 

This is an obvious area where it'd be nice to see the Bucks get back to their early season ways; though they're still the 3rd best defensive rebounding team, they've fallen all the way to 23rd in offensive rebound rate.  And when you consider how many bricks they've thrown up in the past month, that's a lot of second chance points they're missing out on.  Look for this number to improve if Mbah a Moute continues to start and get 30+ minutes most nights.

Two Good

Luc starts.  I've been whining about Mbah a Moute not starting for a little while now--not that I was the only one. So I'm pleased to report Skiles came to his senses and benched Delfino for the first time this season, the only lineup change following the horrible first half in Charlotte.  Not a fantastic night or anything from Mbah a Moute, but the Bucks' starting five did their job, staking the Bucks to an early lead that they maintained throughout the half.

Uh, competitiveness?  I feel cheap giving the Bucks credit for doing the job they get paid millions of dollars to do, but this team has looked so lost of late that it was at least nice to see them come out looking unafraid against a very good team (and on the road no less).  And while the final margin was much bigger than against the Bobcats, the fact that they survived past halftime might be something to build on.  God, my standards are low.

Three Bad

The saga continues...Regardless of any silver linings we try to find buried in this game, it was a loss.  And a blowout one at that.  The Bucks get a chance to make it right--or at least stop the bleeding--when they host Oklahoma City on Saturday, followed by games against two of the East's most disappointing teams: the Bulls and Nets.

Redd.  Fact: aside from a few moments here and there, we've yet to see Michael Redd really help the Bucks do positive things on the court.  On the rare occasions that he's played well the other Bucks seem to play poorly (the Lakers game being the obvious exception), and you'd be forgiven for wondering if there's some connection.  Still, the truth is that Redd has been more deferential on offense than ever before, so I do think he's trying to make it work. 

But he's been so bad at the one thing he's always excelled at (you know, "scoring points") that it's hard to take any consolation from anything he might do to compensate.  Tonight Redd was the only starter who wasn't really involved offensively in the early going, which is fine to the extent that other guys have an opportunity to do good things.  I don't want Redd to be selfish, particularly when he's not scoring effectively.  But realistically, what value does Redd bring when he's not scoring?   I don't think his value as a decoy makes him more useful as a non-scorer than Bell or even Meeks.  I'm just at a loss right as to what the Bucks can do with him right now...I'd love to see him back on the bench as a sixth man, but it seems like Skiles really wants to start him.  He did it with Ben Gordon, why not a struggling Michael Redd?

Shooting slump continues.  Ridnour was the only Buck to shoot better than 50% from the floor, as the Bucks yet again failed to crack 40% shooting for the night.  To be honest this part of the Bucks' struggles annoys me more than it concerns me--while I'm not sure the Bucks are a good shooting team, I really don't think they're this bad. 

After his nice outing against the Spurs, Meeks has missed all seven of his threes over the past two games, while Delfino continues to play himself out of the regular rotation with an 0/2 night in a season-low nine minutes.  He's now made just 4/23 fg in his last five games.  And things weren't any better for Bell, who followed up an 0/4 night in Charlotte with an 0/5 night in Orlando. 

For the season, Redd (33.6%), Bell (38.6%), Delfino (38.0%), and Meeks (35.5%) all continue to shoot under 40%, while Jennings is only a shade above it.  Given the way Jennings has shot the ball in the past month it's probably only a matter of time before Ridnour is the only guard making at least 40% of his shots--the irony being that Ridnour is barely a career 40% shooter yet he continues to hit a silly 51% of his attempts this year.