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Bucks vs. Magic Preview: Milwaukee looks to right the ship against mediocre Magic

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Bucks hope to build off their promising loss and beat a struggling Magic squad

NBA: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling 124-121 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, the Milwaukee Bucks are back at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Monday night hoping to snap their three game losing streak. They face a Magic squad coming off two straight wins over the scuffling Pelicans and Mavericks, but their overall season numbers show a bleaker outlook.

Bucks Update

Milwaukee followed up their poo-poo platter performance against the Miami Heat with a spirited effort against a Warriors team that still seemed peeved over their loss to the Bucks a year earlier. Silly grudges aside, the Bucks’ two stars brought their A-games. Giannis (30 points/four rebounds/six assists) and Jabari (28/5/6) did everything in their power to keep the Bucks in the game, but after a botched inbounds play with ten seconds left, the Bucks sealed their fate.

Coach Kidd continued his carousel of curious rotation decisions, as Greg Monroe followed up his DNP in Miami by playing only two minutes at the end of the first half. Those were only a product of Henson and Plumlee having three fouls each though. Eric Nehm asked Kidd about the strategy, and here’s what he had to say:

Eric and Frank Madden dug into the Monroe topic in much greater detail on Sunday night in their latest podcast as well, which you can check out below:

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Oddly enough, Mirza Teletovic didn’t appear until the fourth quarter either, when the Bucks once again found success going small with Giannis at center. We’ll see whether the Bucks try out their smallball lineup tonight, although Orlando has been hesitant to go small despite two versatile bigs in Aaron Gordon and Serge Ibaka. Orlando has only featured 33 minutes without one of Bismack Biyombo or Nikola Vucevic on the floor.

Magic Update

Two cupcake wins over the Pelicans (89-82) and Dallas (95-87) put Orlando at 6-7 on the season. So while that’s a decent start for new coach Frank Vogel, it’s a bit like putting lipstick on their mascot Stuft. Orlando’s played the fourth easiest schedule in the league (Milwaukee’s is third easiest FWIW), their expected W-L is only 3-10, and their -7.0 net rating is 2nd worst in the league, ahead of only Philadelphia’s scary bad -11.0 rating.

Orlando’s decision to flip Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Serge Ibaka is looking like a failed gambit at this point, with Ibaka posting decent shooting numbers (44% from three, 54% true shooting), but the worst block rate of his career. If his defensive prowess dwindles, his fit next to Nikola Vucevic looks less tenable. The numbers bear that out so far, as the “should at least be OK defensively” lineup of Payton-Fournier-Gordon-Ibaka-Vucevic lineup is has a 111.4 defensive rating, a figure that would be worst in the league.

Vogel made the decision to move Aaron Gordon to the three before the year, presumably to fashion him into a Paul George role while Ibaka, Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo clogged the paint. It’s been perhaps predictably unsuccessful thus far, with Gordon still unable to punish people going under screens (47% effective field goal percentage) and his assist percentage only slightly higher than last year. Oh, and maybe most damning is the fact Gordon was sent to the bench in favor of Jeff Green in the starting lineup.

One more puzzling stat. Orlando ranks only 21st in rebounding percentage, an abhorrent mark considering their fleet of competent big men. Still, the Magic have some semblance of momentum currently, and the Bucks are hoping to corral some good vibes of their own before getting the next three days off. Only Jodie Meeks is out for the Magic.