Ah yes, it turns out a game against the lowly Atlanta Hawks was the perfect remedy for massaging the wounds the Philadelphia 76ers inflicted against the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas day. The Bucks have another chance to feel better against somewhat more formidable foe in the Orlando Magic.
Amid the lingering frustration from the Philadelphia loss was the fact Giannis Antetokounmpo just couldn’t find his typical rhythm. That particular issue wasn’t helped in the 112-86 win over Atlanta given that Giannis sat for the game, but the rest of Milwaukee’s roster sure found their own rhythm in his absence. The Bucks held Atlanta to just 36% shooting, including only 12-41 (29%) from deep. Meanwhile, they hit 11-28 from 3-point land but opted to do the majority of their damage inside against the Hawks weak interior defense. Even without their two paint bellwethers in Bledsoe and Giannis, they still outscored Atlanta by 24 in that region. Khris Middleton led all scorers with 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Orlando should provide a far better defensive test than the hapless Hawks.
Stay tuned for later in the day when the injury report is released to see if Giannis plays.
Player to Watch: Brook Lopez
Lopez has started to come on a bit more offensively since his slow start from outside, and against Atlanta Bud opted to let him throw back to old school Brook and work from the paint. If the Bucks are without Giannis again tonight, we’ll see how Bud wants to use Brook given Orlando has far better defenders like Jonathan Isaac inside ready and willing to block shots. But, Brook vs. Vucevic should be a fun offensive matchup to watch.
Look, if there’s anything we learned from last year’s Playoffs, it’s that the transitive property is Philly’s mantra. And given that the Magic just beat Philly, and Philly just beat Milwaukee, this preview is basically moot given the Magic MUST beat the Bucks. Realistically though, the Bucks have looked relatively dominant over Orlando in their two matchups this year, with 123-91 and 110-101 victories already on the books. The Magic are clinging to the 8th seed over frisky Charlotte, but they haven’t entirely carried over the defensive dynamism that carried them to the Playoffs the second half of last year.
They were without Michael Carter-Williams and Al Farouq Aminu against Philadelphia, but we’ll have to wait until the injury report is released later to see if they’re out again tonight.
Player to Watch: Nikola Vucevic
Vuc missed the last matchup between these two teams, and Brook should have his hands full with Orlando’s offensive fulcrum on the defensive end. He’s coming off 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against Philly’s frontline, so Lopez will have to be ready both inside and out against Vucevic’s predilection for the midrange game.
Game 34: Against Orlando, the Bucks will...
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