With most of the state's hoops attention focused on Indianapolis, the Bucks provided a performance worthy of...well, being ignored.
Coming off two encouraging wins and with a chance to claw back above .500 for the first time in weeks, the Bucks put to waste a fast start against the Orlando Magic Saturday night and slumped down the stretch, allowing a more motivated Magic team to score 13 of the game's final 15 points to win 97-90. The Bucks refused to guard Tobias Harris (or anyone else who wandered into the right corner), and the former Buck punished them with five threes in a 23p/10r double-double. Nik Vucevic added 20p/7r, and the Bucks couldn't compensate for poor shooting nights from Giannis Antetokounmpo (3/12 fg, 9 pts), Khris Middleton (6/16 fg, 15 pts) and Michael Carter-Williams (4/14 fg, 8 pts) en route to scoring just 90 points on 89 shots.
On the plus side, Carter-Williams compensated by nearly recording his first Bucks triple-double (10 rebs, 9 ast), and the Bucks got efficient scoring nights -- though most of it early -- from Ersan Ilyasova (18 points on 7/13 fg, 8 rebs) and O.J. Mayo (14 pts, 6/10 fg). The Magic's backcourt size meant the Bucks didn't spend the entire night pounding MCW and Middleton in the post, and their 26 assists and 13 turnovers carried over some of the better ball-moving aspects of what we saw from the Bucks in Boston on Friday night.
Unfortunately the finished product abandoned them in the game's final three minutes. Carter-Williams floated in a tough shot for an 85-84 lead, and his subsequent steal set up Antetokounmpo's transition three-point play just moments later. But back-to-back triples from Harris and Oladipo -- both wide open in the right corner -- gave Orlando a 94-90 lead with 1:28 left, and the Bucks went empty from there on out. With less than a minute left, Ilyasova's late-game free throw shooting hex struck again, as he missed two straight after cleaning up Giannis' midrange miss, and Middleton missed two threes in the final 30 seconds to seal the Bucks' collapse.
Alas, the night had started with much more promise. With Giannis forced to the locker room after taking a shot to the nose, the Bucks got an early boost from Ilyasova, who scored nine points in under a minute to make it 14-8 Milwaukee. Jared Dudley's three later in the period gave the Bucks a 25-14 edge, but the Magic didn't go quietly, using a 10-0 run to take a 40-39 second quarter lead. Harris seemed to be in revenge-mode with with 12 first-half points and some excellent defense on Giannis, and the Magic were controlling the game's tempo with a 13-4 edge in transition in the first half.
Giannis' night got off to a rough start when he took an inadvertent elbow from Oladipo three minutes into the game; he slumped to the floor and went to the bench before a brief trip to the locker room confirmed a nasal contusion. That seemed to summarize what was to come, as he returned to start the second but missed his first six shots before burying a midrange jumper and then adding a tough and-one finish in the lane.
Giannis like WHOA https://t.co/HA4eO2Efi1— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) April 5, 2015
Unfortunately, any personal momentum he had going into the half was short-circuited by two quick fouls early in the third quarter -- one a wipe-away offensive foul, the second an overly aggressive reaching foul against Harris on the perimeter. Four fouls meant he sat out the rest of the quarter, a recurring problem for Giannis over the past week or two. Unfortunately the fourth quarter didn't offer much in the way of redemption. Other than his transition finish late in the period, his most notable contribution was getting caught helping down low and leaving Harris open repeatedly in the corner. Not all Giannis' fault, but it helped make for a frustrating end to a forgettable night.