With 5:20 left in the third quarter, Nikola Vucevic sunk a 14-foot jumper that gave the Orlando Magic a 70-60 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks. They had been playing well. Vucevic (19p/14r) and Tobias Harris (17p) were consistently finding soft spots around the paint. Harris also knocked down three of his five three-point attempts, combining with Channing Frye to connect on six of team's 10 threes (out of 18 attempts) on the evening.
The Bucks were looking pretty lackluster and inconsistent up until that point. They would make a few shots, but then cough the ball up on a few straight possessions. In the third quarter in particular, the Bucks started out shooting 3-11 from the field with four turnovers. They finished the night with 22, which unfortunately has been a recurring problem all season.
However, over the remaining 17 minutes and 20 seconds, the Bucks were able to start getting stops. Their defense wasn't perfect, but they did pick up the intensity. They held the Magic scoreless in the final 4:09 of the third quarter; drawing charges, blocking shots, and really controlling the glass. The game was all tied up at 72 going into the final frame.
In the fourth, the Bucks sprung out to a five point lead behind a few clutch baskets from Khris Middleton, who finished the night with career-high-tying 30 points and five assists. The Magic made a few late pushes, but never led by more than one. A pair of Michael Carter-Williams free throws put the Bucks up for good with just over a minute left to go, and the Bucks left their home court victorious after Giannis Antetokounmpo's dunk finished off a terrific passing sequence to give the Bucks a four-point lead with 20 seconds left. After that Vucevic bucket in the third, the Bucks went on a 37-21 run to close things out.
-- After the Magic shot 57 percent in the first half -- the second straight game the Bucks have let a team be that hot in a half -- Milwaukee held Orlando to just 34 points in the second half on 30 percent shooting (13-43). Coming into tonight, the Bucks' Defensive Rating in March was a lackluster 106.1 (albeit a small sample size). After a rough first half, it was really refreshing to see them turn the intensity on that end back up -- and saved them from an embarrassing loss.
-- Khris Middleton had played well the whole game, but his first two buckets of the fourth quarter were really cool to watch in person. You could sense that he knew it was his time to make a few plays, and by god, he did. Dude is going to get a nice payday this summer. He's averaged 20.9 points since the trade deadline, has scored in double-digits in 17 straight games, and scored 30 in two of the last three games.
-- Giannis Antetokounmpo had a somewhat quiet night of 11p/7r/3a, but did knock down a three in the first half, drove and finished off a beautiful reverse in the fourth, and essentially finished the game off with this slam in traffic off some excellent ball movement from MCW (11p/9r/6a) and Zaza (10p/12r/5a).
The three that he did make looked fine, functionally speaking; it just seems like it's a matter of how fast Giannis decides to pull the trigger. On the one he made, there was little hesitation. Other times it looked like he wanted to shoot, but stopped himself at the last second. It's definitely good that he still wants to attack, but I wonder when the switch will flip. I don't think he or any one of us should be in any hurry, though.
-- Who is teaching the Bucks centers how to catch basketballs?
-- Part of the reason the Bucks were able to catch up rather quickly was their surprising dominance on the glass. Milwaukee outrebounded Orlando 51-33 and only allowed nine offensive rebounds and four second chance points.
-- Are we still calling them the Milwaukee Grinders? Because tonight was the Bucks 11th win this season after being down by 10 or more points.
-- A Bucks win tonight was huge, as it bumps Milwaukee up another half-game on the Indiana Pacers, who will be tomorrow night's opponent on the road. The Pacers are 9-1 in their last 10 games and are on the verge of getting Paul George back after being without him due to his freak leg injury with Team USA last summer. He won't play tomorrow, but the Pacers are hot and gaining momentum. Tomorrow night will be a fun one.