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Bucks vs. Magic preview: With 6th seed all but locked up, Milwaukee now looks for consistency

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

What's the saying? Something about miserable March giving way to awesome April? Do people say that? The Milwaukee Bucks are surely happy to put last month's 4-11 record to rest and focus on their 2-0 record since April arrived. Winning two games in a row is nice, but it doesn't always portend more good things--the Bucks won two in a row late in March only to get smoked by the Warriors and Hawks right after.

The good news for Milwaukee is that only one of their remaining six games comes against a team with a winning record (Cleveland), meaning they'll have ample opportunity to rediscover those winning ways of old as they gear up for the playoffs. They could have their spot in the playoffs clinched by early next week, and easily lock up the 6th seed by week's end.

For now all eyes are on the Orlando Magic, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 97-84 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. A win would give the Bucks their first three-game winning streak since winning four in a row sandwiched around the All-Star break.

Magic Update

Oooooh things are not pretty. The Magic are 6-15 since the All-Star break as their season has unraveled down the stretch. Or perhaps unravel is the wrong word, since the Magic are in the driver's seat for a top-5 pick in this summer's NBA draft and are probably more than happy to focus on the solid play of their top young players like Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo.

Vucevic has been terrific this season, shouldering an increased load on offense for the Magic while still setting career highs in shooting efficiency and assist rate and decreasing his turnover rate. Oladipo has also improved his efficiency in his second season, but he hasn't been playing like the tenacious defender he looked like coming out of Indiana. He's 80th among shooting guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus and the Magic have given up almost five more points per 100 possessions with him on the court per 82games.com. It's a curious statistical profile for a player who remains a prolific thief (1.6 steals per game), but Oladipo's relative lack of size and Orlando's lack of rim protection might be conspiring against him.

Then of course there's Tobias Harris, who continues to put up big scoring numbers (17.1 points per game) but has seen his rebounding rates drop to the lowest levels of his career. Harris was recently identified by ESPN's Kevin Pelton as a so-called "RPM Mirage" (alongside Bucks point guards past and present), a player who puts up noteworthy box score stats but looks like a drain on his team in the eyes of advanced metrics.

Harris' 17.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game look strong for a 22-year-old headed to restricted free agency. RPM tells a different story, again largely because of the defensive end. Orlando has allowed 4.2 more points per 100 possessions with Harris on the floor.

Four Factors

Despite the eye-popping stats of their core players, the Magic remain among the worst teams in the NBA on both ends of the court. They're strong on the defensive glass and force a good number of turnovers thanks in large part to the backcourt of Oladipo and rookie Elfrid Payton, who ranks 10th in the NBA in steal percentage. But the Magic are no better than average in any of the other key offensive or defensive factors.

Injuries

No major absences for the Magic beyond Luke Ridnour, who is not with the team on their road trip due to the expected birth of his fourth child. Evan Fournier (hip) and Devyn Marble (eye) are both dealing with long-term injuries expected to keep them out for the remainder of the season.

The Bucks should have everyone available again tonight as vets like O.J. Mayo and Jared Dudley round back into form after lengthy rehab stints.

2014/2015 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(38-38, 22-15 home)
vs.
Orlando magic.v9ba0e1f
(22-53, 11-27 away)
April 4, 2015
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:30pm CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Michael Carter-Williams PG Elfrid Payton
Khris Middleton SG Victor Oladipo
Giannis Antetokounmpo SF Tobias Harris
Ersan Ilyasova PF Dewayne Dedmon
Zaza Pachulia C Nikola Vucevic
2014/15 Advanced Stats
93.9 (15th) Pace 93.9 (14th)
102.7 (26th) ORtg 101.6 (27th)
102.6 (4th) DRtg 108.0 (25th)

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