Though there were no shortage of moments where the Bucks looked incapable of winning a basketball game, a very strong fourth quarter gave Milwaukee enough juice to get its 13th win of the year Monday night, beating the Orlando Magic 105-98.
It appeared as if the Bucks were going to have another nightmare play out before their eyes tonight. After trading baskets for most of the first quarter, former Buck and subject of comment thread monster rage Tobias Harris seized control of the game, coming off the bench to score 11 quick points (a total he also finished with, as well as 8 rebounds) in five minutes as the Magic expanded their lead to as large as 18 in the second quarter.
Though the Bucks battled back to get the lead within six at the half, they again came out cold to start the third. Orlando kept the pressure on Milwaukee with seven of their ten players scoring in double digits, but eventually Milwaukee was able to tighten up defensively and get some shots to fall on the other end. A hot Brandon Knight carried the Bucks through the end of the third and start of the fourth, but things got cooking once Khris Middleton started hitting from downtown, burying three triples early in the final period. After Milwaukee surged out to a decent enough lead, it was just a matter of making enough stops defensively, and they made just enough to get the win. Strangely, the Magic opted to foul down three with 35 seconds left and the Bucks salted the game away from the line thereafter.
As stated earlier, the 13-win Bucks, paired with a loss by the Philadelphia 76ers, brings the gap between the two teams that will have the best lottery odds to only 2 wins (and 6 wins of Orlando). Though some people might be already stocking their cellars with dehydrated food and plenty of water, a win like this for the Bucks was a healthy one, considering that the fourth quarter lineup consisted of four young guys and one veteran who actually does some things pretty well on a basketball court. There shouldn't be much of a reason to have beef with that, but do what you want with it. That's just my opinion. Hey look, a new section!
- Brandon Knight had a very solid game with 24p/6a/3r, but Khris Middleton will get the line of the night with 21p/7a/6r. After getting out to a sluggish 1-5 shooting start in the first half, Middleton put himself in spots where he could catch the ball in a rhythm and get off that quick release. There was at least one instance where Middleton and the guard he would operate with would do a quick give-and-go that would free Middleton up for an attempt. The Magic, who looked completely disinterested in rising up to the challenge for most of the second half, typically employed the "hey, what are those guys doing hey stop it don't shoot noooooooooo damn it" defense in these instances, thus leading to all those threes to trigger the fourth quarter run. I like it when the opponent does that.
- Knight struggled from deep (1/9) but thankfully had the common sense to relentlessly attack the Magic off the bounce--going to his right, as per usual--as he and Victor Oladipo (5/6 fg, 12 pts) took turns reiterating that they are really, really fast. Knight's 8/14 shooting inside the arc proved the bizarro counterpoint to Middleton's night, which featured 5/8 shooting from three but 0/5 on twos.
- Also not to be lost in that fourth quarter run was Ramon Sessions, who finished with 16p/8a in 25 minutes. With Sessions' ability to also attack the paint with relative success, that allowed Knight to be aggressive without having to be solely responsible for the offense going down the stretch. Though Sessions ended up playing more minutes than Nate Wolters did tonight, I can live with the reasoning behind the decision tonight.
- The Bucks were only whistled for nine fouls the entire game while Orlando was called for 22. What up, ref bias!
- Before the game, Larry Drew said that Jeff Adrien had earned a set amount of minutes going forward. I don't think 4:46 was what Drew had in mind, but Drew said after the game that the lack of burn for Adrien was primarily matchup-based more so than performance. Adrien, a small power forward who does his damage on the interior, had troubles keeping up with Harris, a small power forward who does his damage on the perimeter. Once Drew made the move to get Adrien off of Tobes, he never scored again.
- Giannis mostly had a pretty ordinary game, but did show off his quarterback skills with a touchdown pass on Knight's tomahawk dunk (below). As usual he saved his best for the final period, finishing a Bucks breakout with a layup and calmly knocking down a wing three in an important juncture of the game. He also led a good amount of the fast breaks off of the stops the team was getting late, to which I say: MORE, PLEASE.
The Bucks will hit the road this week, with trips to Minnesota tomorrow, Atlanta on Thursday, and New York on Saturday, before returning home to face Charlotte at noon on Sunday. It'll be just like football, except the Bucks finally have more wins than the 8-win Packers.