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Milwaukee vs. Orlando: Bucks Exposed in Playoff Opener

What a pathetic performance against a undermanned Orlando Magic 8-seed.

NBA: Playoffs-Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Leave it to the Milwaukee Bucks to get embarrassed in game one of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Things started out okay for the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe hitting open three-pointers, but that is pretty much where the “fun” stopped.

All afternoon the Bucks were getting bombarded from downtown due to horrible defensive rotations and over-helping on drives to the basket. Milwaukee just had no fire or edge all game on either end of the floor. There were countless sloppy turnovers and horrible shot selection when they were able to narrow the deficit. In all, the Magic came away with an impressive 122-110 victory. It’s only one game, but if the bubble has been any indication of how the Bucks are going to continue to play defense, their once “historic” season will be thrown in the garbage can.

Three Observations

Milwaukee’s bench was just god awful aside from George Hill who finished with 16 points. I am not a fan at all of Mike Budenholzer going seven deep off the bench in a playoff series. Hello, this is a playoff series for crying out loud! Ugh. Where do I begin with the bench play? Pat Connaughton was awful in 22 minutes, committing fouls on jumpers and losing his man defensively which led to easy buckets for Orlando. Donte DiVincenzo has lost the edge he was playing with before the COVID-19 stoppage which is a grim development for the Bucks. He finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 13 minutes. I just don’t see the need to play the “bench mob” many minutes when you are double double-digits all game to the Orlando Magic. Oh well, I suppose it’s easier to coach from my couch...

Oof, the Bucks needed Khris Middleton to step up and he did not. I am one to not slander Middleton, but his play today was unacceptable. He got outplayed by * checks notes * James Ennis III. He played 31 minutes and could only muster 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting while also playing some very lazy defense at times. He did have one nice beautiful dish to Brook Lopez in the second half, but that’s really all the positive that came away from his performance. He committed four turnovers and looked out of sync from the opening tip. I strongly expect Khris to bounce back for game two...can only go up from here.

When was the last time Brook Lopez got torched defensively? This poor man is going to have nightmares of Nikola Vucevic. Granted, Vuc did hit some tough shots over Lopez but he had Brook’s number all game. Nikola finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds while knocking down five triples. He shot only 33.3% from deep in the regular season, but everyone loves to hit their threes against the Bucks...especially when they are left WIDE OPEN. Offensively, it looked like Brook Lopez was back with how he played in the regular season restart prior to the playoffs. However, he could not buy a bucket yesterday. He made two shots (no threes) in game one in 30 minutes and finished with a team-worst minus-11. Oof.

Bonus Bucks

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo did not play like his dominant self in game one but still finished with 31 points, 17 boards, and seven assists in 34 minutes. I did not like how he settled for three-pointers in the second half...very ill-advised. When the Bucks had momentum and closed the gap, Giannis would chuck up an unnecessary three and the Magic would ring off two consecutive buckets. Not ideal. He also committed five turnovers and had a few offensive fouls. The Bucks should have gotten him involved way earlier in the game against an Orlando team that has no interior defense whatsoever. Just a horrible game plan from the git-go.
  • Eric Bledsoe scored 15 points, but was mostly awful against the Magic...but who wasn’t? He was outplayed by Markelle Fultz which seems pretty on-brand for how Bledsoe has played in previous postseasons. It’s always Jekyll & Hyde with Bledsoe, so I guess this dud was to be expected. I just don’t understand his infatuation with chucking up three-pointers.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Magic made 16 threes on 41 attempts (39%) and most of them were wide open. With how well players have been shooting in the bubble, this Bucks defense is in serious trouble. There’s absolutely no excuse to be giving up open three after open three in the playoffs...this was only against the Orlando Magic. Imagine if this was against the Toronto Raptors? RIP.