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Milwaukee vs. Orlando: Bucks Shore Up Defense, Even Series

Never in doubt!

NBA: Playoffs-Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks controlled the game from the opening tip en route to a 111-96 victory over the Orlando Magic, evening up the first-round series and 1-1.

The Bucks looked much more energized on both ends of the floor in game two and defensively they forced the Magic to take a lot of contested jumpers. The faster pace on offense was noticeable as well from the first possession with Eric Bledsoe trying to push the pace and catch Orlando’s defense off-balance. Aside from the final four minutes of the game where Orlando made a slight push, it is hard to be discouraged with how Milwaukee played after suffering an embarrassing defeat in the series opener.

Three Bucks

Where were you during the Pat Connaughton game? I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren about this performance. Jokes aside, Pat was the Bucks hero in game two off the bench in 24 minutes. With Khris Middleton struggling mightily on both ends, Connaughton brought some much-needed sharpshooting and defensive prowess on Thursday night. He was in the right spot at the right time all throughout game two and he and Giannis displayed some great chemistry on the perimeter with the majority of Pat’s makes coming off assists from Antetokounmpo. Connaughton finished the victory with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists, and five makes from downtown. With Donte DiVincenzo looking a bit rattled, this performance was definitely magnified. It’s hard to say if the Bucks come out on top if he didn’t put up the stats he did last night. He also finished a game-high plus-16.

Khris Middleton...where art thou? Oof, and we thought it couldn’t get worse than game one, right? Well, we were wrong. Middleton had no rhythm whatsoever offensively and finished the game with only two points in 31 minutes. I was a bit disappointed that the Bucks did not really draw up many plays for him to get going offensively as most of his shots were heavily contested jumpers off the dribble. However, I also credit the Orlando Magic because they are clearly making him uncomfortable out there. James Ennis III and Wes Iwundu have been all up in his jersey there first two games. It’ll be interesting to see if they try to make Middleton a focal point offensively in game three on Saturday and the Bucks are extremely fortunate to walk away with a comfortable victory after arguably his worst performance of the season...maybe even his career?

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a tough time finishing around the rim tonight again, which is something I thought I would never have to type. He was able to get to the basket in game two but was just missing some really easy shots from a few feet out. We’ve never seen Giannis struggle to finish around the hoop, but he has in the first two games of this series. However, he still managed to put up 28 points, 20 rebounds, and five assists in 32 minutes. He turned the ball over seven times and committed some silly offensive fouls which was pretty much the same story in the game one loss. That’s 12 turnovers in two games now for the Greek Freak, something I am sure he is not happy about.

Bonus Bucks

  • Aside from some very errant passes and unnecessary gambling on defense, I thought Eric Bledsoe played a solid basketball game. He attacked the basket much more than he did in game one and found success in the intermediate game as he hit a handful of silky jumpers. He ended his night with 13 points and seven assists in 26 minutes. It’s always going to be a rollercoaster ride with Bledsoe, but he was more good than he was bad last night.
  • Brook Lopez was a force on both ends of the floor. After a putrid game one, he bounced back to drop 20 points while converting on 4-of-8 shots from three-point range. He finished with only one block but successfully contested on a bevy of drives to the basket by the Magic. It’s crucial that Brook was able to carry some of the load offensively with a handful of guys struggling for the Bucks.
  • Kyle Korver was rock solid in 16 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points while finishing plus-8. He was all hustle out there and knocked down some shots to help give the Bucks some breathing room. They absolutely won the minutes when he was on the floor.
  • No one finished with a negative plus-minus for the Bucks while every Magic player who saw minutes finished in the negative.
  • Milwaukee made 15 threes compared to only seven for Orlando.
  • Uhh..the refereeing last night was simply atrocious. I would also describe it in a much more vulgar way...