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Milwaukee vs. Orlando: Bucks Outlast Shorthanded Magic

Both teams were without several players, but the Bucks prevailed

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t easy against a shorthanded Orlando Magic squad, but the Milwaukee Bucks burned Orlando’s wizardry at the stake to win 111-104. An 0-fer for Mileaukee from beyond the arc in the first quarter put them behind the 8-ball early, trailing 29-25 to the Magic heading into the second quarter. Orlando carried that same advantage into halftime, as the stagnated Bucks offense couldn’t produce despite the Magic coughing the ball up ten times. Orlando’s 54-50 lead also partially stemmed from their proficient 7-16 (46.7%) performance behind the arc. After half, the Bucks offense finally started clicking, with four 3-point makes that helped them take a 78-74 advantage as the fourth quarter started. Orlando tried to prolong the game late with some incessant fouling, but clutch shots from KEG stifled their attempts and put Milwaukee over the edge.

Three Main Observations

Forcing It

Milwaukee’s offense devolved into isolation ball again tonight, particularly in the second quarter. Each of the Bucks marquee three seemingly tried to match the Magic’s surprisingly potent offensive production with their own spells on the other end. While Bledsoe and Giannis driving to the rim often leads to good results, too often they got the blinders on while trying to force a shot or draw contact. Meanwhile, Khris Middleton seemed intent on firing away from any Magic defender willing to cozy up to him from the midrange. They showed a bit of life with Giannis slipping a screen and getting a nice feed from Snell for a dunk, but all-in-all they looked inert. One really only need look at the first half shot chart for both teams to understand why Milwaukee’s offensive and defensive performances left plenty of room for improvement. For the well being of all fans, they managed to pull it together some in the second half with 3-pointers from the bench crew.

A Small Quibble With Giannis

Giannis has fallen into this weird habit of proceeding into the lane, posting up his guy, and then turning around for an incredibly high-arcing difficult jumper. He has the height advantags on most everyone in the league and it feels like he’s making those shots even more difficult than they need to be. Most of the time, he could simply reach up and put a push/hook shot into the bucket. I feel like that’s fallen out of his repertoire this year and I’d like to see it return. Don’t take away my turnaround elbow jumper though, that thing remains gorgeous even when it misses.

Butch Thon

Thon Maker finishing in the lane was an encouraging sign tonight, even if it was oftentimes unimpeded by any Orlando Magic players. Playing the pick and roll and picking his spots when to probe towards the basket is something that’s been sorely lacking from his game. If Prunty continues to ask him to stick near the basket at points rather than commit fully to him planting himself outside the arc, it’s imperative he develop even a smidge of feel on the offensive end with Milwaukee’s penetrating players. Additionally this dunk, even if it was against Mario Hezonja, only strengthened that observation tonight.

Bonus Bucks Bits

For the second night in a row, Thon Maker was wide open under the bucket and able to finish. His dunk may have barely gotten past the tin, but at least he didn’t practice a spin move against no one tonight.

Giannis Antetokounmpo passed up a wide open 3-pointer tonight after getting the pass from Snell. Instead, he shoveled it right back to Snell for him to launch it up, despite the fact Snell’s been missing aplenty lately. Listening to the latest Lowe Post with Brian Windhorst, they had a discussion about how Lebron will stop passing to shooters who are missing. Giannis’ willingness to shovel it back to Snell and get his guy going just reminded me of that segment and felt like an interesting dichotomy considering Snell hadn’t made a 3-pointer on the road trip before tonight.

Say what you want about Bledsoe pulling up for midrange shots, but I’d much prefer a wide open jumper from him over a hurried laser from Sean Kilpatrick beyond the arc, as was the case in the first quarter. That being said, I still could’ve done with a few less pull-ups from Bledsoe particularly in the first half.

Khris Middleton was a midrange master in the first quarter, dropping home difficult turnaround and stepback jumpers against multiple Magic defenders with a perfect 4-4 start. His only miss was a pull-up three, an annoying trend given his midrange proficiency and general struggles from beyond the arc.

Happy birthday to Sterling Brown, who turned 23 today. His celebration was an 0-5 night but at least he tallied six rebounds and snagged a steal by manhandling Biyombo.

Tyler Zeller got absolutely roasted by D.J. Augustin tonight off the dribble. This was cruel:

The Bucks started the third quarter doing a far better job of using their penetration to create for teammates. A Bledsoe drive and drop off led to a Thon dunk and several possessions later Middleton got under the hoop and dished to a cutting Giannis for a ferocious slam over Bismack Biyombo’s dome.

The Bucks bench was sorely lacking in firepower with Maker thrust into a larger role without Henson and Jabari Parker out to help preserve him on a back-to-back. Thankfully Sean Kilpatrick was game for the challenge, as he has been most of this season, tallying nine points for the game while JET showed out for 11 points.

Middleton showed ridiculous anticipation working from the right wing and slinging a pass to a cutting Giannis between three Magic defenders for an easy layup.