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Bucks vs. Magic Final Score: Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Bayless close out Magic in 107-100 victory

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As has been customary as of late, the Bucks were hurt repeatedly by the Orlando Magic from the 3-point line with Orlando shooting 54 percent (13-of-24) from deep. On the other side, the Bucks only hit five threes the entire night, but two of those makes came from Jerryd Bayless in the fourth quarter, with the final three falling with just 13 seconds left in the game to give the Bucks a 103-99 lead. The three would ultimately propel them to a 107-100 victory with some free throws sprinkled in during the final moments.

Things did not start out well for the Bucks as they let the Magic sprint out to a 30-23 lead after one quarter. The first quarter featured four Magic 3-point baskets and eight points from former Buck Tobias Harris. The second quarter was slightly better for the Bucks, as they held the Magic to 26 points in the quarter, however they put themselves in a tough spot trailing Orlando 52-42 with just 2:31 remaining in the second. Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe fueled a 11-4 run to bring the Bucks within three at the half.

The two teams played to a bit of a stalemate in the third quarter with pretty limited scoring for the first eight minutes of the quarter until the Bucks turned to a lineup they had used for only nine minutes before Tuesday's game. A strange mismatched, jumbo lineup helped the Bucks close out the third quarter on a bit of a run and take a 82-78 lead into the fourth quarter.

In the final period, the two teams battled back and forth until the Bucks found themselves trailing by three with just under three minutes remaining. After Monroe made one of two free throws and the Bucks got a stop, Bayless stepped into a 3-point basket that gave the Bucks a one-point lead. The teams traded a few baskets before the Bucks turned to Khris Middleton to close out the game with a 100-99 lead. After taking a shot on the previous possession, Middleton drove and kicked the ball out to Bayless on the wing, who buried a three to give the Bucks a four-point cushion. The Bucks would add a few more to that lead and pull out a 107-100 victory.

Middleton, currently playing the best basketball of his career, was fantastic again on Tuesday night with 25 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Antetokounmpo also added 25 points on the night on 12-of-16 shooting with nine rebounds as well. And finally, Greg Monroe finished the with 21 points and 11 rebounds, good enough for his 25th double-double of the season.

Tidbits:

  • Jason Kidd returned to the lineup tonight to coach his first game (from the bench) since December 20th against the Phoenix Suns.
  • The Magic were 4-for-5 from the 3-point line in the first quarter and 4-of-6 from distance in the second quarter.
  • Antetokounmpo ended the game with eight dunks.
  • In the second quarter, Jabari Parker started an impressive sequence by chucking an outlet pass down the floor to Greg Monroe near the right block. Monroe quickly found Antetokounmpo streaking through the lane and threw down a dunk.
  • The Bucks attempted to finish the final four minutes of the third quarter with a lineup of Bayless, Middleton, Antetokounmpo, O'Bryant and Henson, but Antetokounmpo had to come out with a cramp. Parker filled his spot for roughly 30 seconds and the lineup ended the quarter plus-6.
  • After the game, Kidd confirmed that he would be making the trip to Memphis to coach the team.
  • Antetokounmpo was on FaceTime with his brother before he started talking with the media and simply decided to turn the phone towards us to conduct his interview. Thus, giving us Giannis and Thanasis for the postgame press conference.

Thoughts:

  • Before the game, Jason Kidd mentioned that the Bucks are struggling to defend the three because of a lack of effort. I don't think that's true. So, I asked Kidd about it:

    "No, we'll blame it on the coach. It's always the coach's fault. So, I'll take the blame. We didn't get any better at it. We'll work on it again tomorrow and get ready for Memphis," Kidd said postgame.

    Now, while his answer came off a bit sarcastic, I think there is some truth to what he said. I think the Bucks regularly fail to execute their defensive instructions and that is the major reason behind their struggles defending the 3-point line.
  • In what is becoming a regular occurrence this season, Rashad Vaughn passed up an open three in the first quarter. After passing up the shot, Antetokounmpo ultimately turned it over as he tried to force his way into the lane. The turnover will be credited to Antetokounmpo, but it's completely on Vaughn. The team has insisted all year long that he is a shooter, which means he needs to shoot the basketball when he's open.
  • Michael Rosenfeld at Vantage Sports wrote a nice piece the Bucks defense a few weeks ago and mentioned the Keep in Front % of Monroe and Parker, as well as the Bucks' over-helping issues. Thinking about the piece while watching tonight's game made me think of a few things: 1.) I would have to assume that Parker is not the only player with dangerously high Keep-in-Front percentages. 2.) The Bucks' inability to stay in front of their assignments has led to much of the over-helping. 3.) The Bucks trust their teammates so little that they've started to help and linger with their help when it is completely unnecessary.
  • Johnny O'Bryant is someone that I regularly get made of fun for giving too many compliments, but he did it again. Sure. There were plenty of things that made you laugh, but he also had a few nice energy plays that really helped the above-mentioned lineup close out the third quarter.
  • I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but Antetokounmpo is in the middle of a stretch of boring, wildly impressive play. In his last ten games, Antetokounmpo has averaged 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists per game. Numbers that not many players in the league can match, yet I don't know if there has been anything that has really stood out to me. Take Tuesday night, for example: Antetokounmpo had eight dunks, which were all great, but didn't do anything we haven't seen before.
  • Actually, on second thought, I'm just incredibly greedy and want to see something more. A 21-year-old putting up those kind of numbers should only make people incredibly excited for his future. The possibilities are endless.