In case you forgot the fan’s creed, “Never Trust the Bucks,” this game as a fitting reminder as the Milwaukee Bucks poo-pooed their way to a startlingly unenthusiastic loss against the woeful Orlando Magic, 117-126. A pathetic first quarter featured an anemic Bucks offense settling for rough shots while Orlando got whatever they wanted at the rim, as D.J. Augustin piled on 16 points with the Bucks down 36-20. A second quarter featured more Giannis destruction with a few assists by Jabari Parker, but they still coughed up points galore as Orlando led at half, 61-52. The Bucks finally got cooking in the third, but extinguished the stove just as quickly with Orlando going on a 14-0 run to end the quarter ahead 91-80. There was no respite in the fourth and the Bucks torpedoed to a loss against the tanking Magic.
Three Main Observations
Battle of the Freak Athletes
Giannis matching up with Jonathan Isaac was one of the matchups I was most looking forward to, with Isaac hurt during each of the Bucks last games against Orlando. Early on though, there was little Isaac and all Giannis, as he calmly maneuvered around Isaac’s skinny frame for slam dunks and contorted finger rolls. For most of the first half, Milwaukee’s best play by far was simply place the ball in Giannis’ hands and have him drive directly into Isaac’s frame. He was helpless against Giannis’ arsenal of moves and brute strength, exemplified as the second quarter wound down when Isaac feebly went for a steal at the 3-point arc in transition while Giannis worked past him and dunked unimpeded. The young man still has plenty to learn.
Isaac reaching on Giannis. Nope. pic.twitter.com/NkrFNA2CJ4— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) March 14, 2018
One of the most frustrating sequences of the game was when Milwaukee had Orlando’s lead down to 71-67 in the third quarter. The ensuing plays featured the Magic driving and dishing with plenty of player and ball movement around the arc for an open Birch sideline jumper. Milwaukee’s answer to that? Khris Middleton getting the ball on the right wing, haphazardly seeing a sliver of space to drive directly to the bucket early in the shot clock and hoisting up a looping underhanded layup that missed. Then, the Magic had a possession eerily similar to the one before as Nikola Vucevic, known as a midrange shooter, calmly shifts from the paint to the elbow where Henson lingered too long and neglected Vooch’s shotmaking. It went in. Milwaukee’s lack of movement and reliance on its players making singular plays whether that involves scoring or drawing defense and kicking to others, is and has been frustrating.
Milwaukee’s defense was horrific all night. In the fourth, Eric Bledsoe was moving around haphazardly on the perimeter rather than sticking to D.J. Augustin as he proceeded to nail a three. He needed to stay home rather than lunging for steals. Augustin roasted the Bucks all night. In the interior, no one was offering any sort of rim protection, with John Henson only ending with one block and unable to deter the Magic from coasting inside. The Bucks might’ve outscored them by 28 in the paint, but that was only because the Magic knew they could get a good look at a three whenever they pleased through simple ball movement. The rotations were not crisp all evening, with players too often losing their man or shading off them instead of trusting their teammates.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Tony Snell dunked early in the first! He’s gone away from some of the uncharacteristically successful plays he flashed early in the year, but it was nice to see him have success off the dribble.
Milwaukee fell behind in the first quarter with a pattern of poor shots (Henson hooks, midrange jumpers) while Orlando got out running and scored quickly before the Bucks’ defense was set. There seemed to be little effort deterring shots at the rim, and D.J. Augustin knifed through the defense for simple looks beneath the bucket.
Who possessed Middleton’s body on this play?
Giannis incredible offensive ability paid dividends in the second quarter, when he got the ball at the elbow, pivoted, and drew all eyes on him before splitting his defender with a final pivot and quick-dishing to a backside Shabazz Muhammad who elevated for an easy slam.
Jabari Parker got himself going in the second too after knocking down a couple cool jumpers in the first. Giannis found him in traffic where he did his usual thing getting to the bucket, then he catwalked along the baseline before pouncing at the rim for a forceful slam.
This is an annoying pet peeve, but when Khris Middleton posts up at the elbow, too often do the Bucks make an incredibly difficult entry pass to him. Tonight, just to ensure he had that chance at those inefficient shots, Eric Bledsoe gave him a rainbow pop-up pass from the top of the arc. There are plenty of times where they have to toss tough passes where only his outstretched arm can ensnare it before it bounces out of bounds. I wish they could find easier ways to get him the ball in advantageous positions, be that dribble handoffs or running him off screens to get him a modicum of space.
There was a sequence in the third quarter where Milwaukee attempted four straight lobs to John Henson. I have never and hope to never type that sentence again.
Thonny Boy got some real minutes tonight, an opportunity late in the third quarter after the Bucks coughed up another run to the Magic directly after their first lead of the night. As he has been all season, he was largely ineffective and got beaten up even by rookie Isaac underneath when trying to get a board. If it weren’t for a turnover (fitting), he would’ve had a four trillion for his stat line.
Giannis switched onto Jonathon Simmons late in the game as a way to hopefully curtail his sterling night to that point. It was good thinking, but unfortunately it wasn’t nearly enough to restore a win down the stretch.