After Game 2, at least the sky slowed down during its precipitous fall for Milwaukee Bucks fans following Game 1 against the Orlando Magic. Their second tussle featured the same sloppy play Bud’s team employed the first time out, but the Magic just mudded alongside them. Game 3 could be instructive for whether this series turns into an ugly, drag-out battle or a laugher with an anomalous first result.
Bud hasn’t been hesitant to try out new looks in his first two games. Even in Game 1, when the team was getting roasted, they switched their defense up late and Giannis Antetokounmpo-center lineups were used more liberally than we’re used to. They switched everything to start the first few bits of Game 2. Still, Bud’s team hasn’t been able to re-capture the fire that elevated them above everyone else throughout most of the year. Giannis continues to uncharacteristically struggle to finish at the tin, a peculiarity made worse by the fact Orlando doesn’t employ any fearsome rim protection. He’s just 15/31 through two games (48%) after converting 74% of those shots in the regular season per Cleaning The Glass. Thankfully, Brook Lopez bounced back from five points in Game 1 to notch 20 in the 111-96 victory. Pat Connaughton was the other major piece off the bench, a crew that looked DOA in the first tilt. Overall, Pat’s looked livelier and more confident than Donte DiVincenzo, even if he offers more defensive liability and less offensive versatility.
I remembered Eric Bledsoe for more beneficial plays than boneheaded in Game 2. Keep that up throughout the Playoffs, and Milwaukee would be quite happy.
Giannis is the only Buck on the injury report, listed as probable with a left calf contusion.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
It can’t be anyone else. In what looked like one of the most unengaged games of his season, Khris Middleton went just 1-8 for two points in Game 2, looking like a lost man searching for his place. Given his importance to the team all year, it was bizarre to see the fish out of water look to his game. Orlando may be making it tough for him to get to his usual spots, but Bud ran the first play of game two for him, sending him through a flurry of picks across the court for an open three he missed. Look for Bud to try and get him first quarter looks to get him cooking. Milwaukee can’t keep surviving with him at this level.
If I’m a Magic fan, I’m feeling pretty, pretty, pretty good right now. Even with the Game 2 loss, the woeful 33.3% overall shooting performance could be cast aside as an extreme outlier. Orlando went just 28.6% (4/14) on wide-open threes in game two. The Bucks still don’t have an answer for Nikola Vucevic, who was just 2-8 on triples, but continues to wreak havoc on the short pick-and-pop and inside. Bud needs to find an answer for him that doesn’t completely compromise the rim defense they’ve had all year. They also continue to batter the Bucks at their own game - not fouling. Orlando has posted the second best opponent free throw rate in the Playoffs (they ranked 5th in the regular season) but the Bucks are 10th in the same state (they ranked 8th in the regular season).
On the flipside, Orlando has the 7th best free throw rate themselves, while the Bucks are second to last. Orlando was 17th in that category in the regular season, Milwaukee 14th. And when Orlando gets to the line, they’re aces, nailing 48/53 (90.6%). I’m usually not a zebra complainer, but the Magic have been quite adept at leaning their bodies into fouls thus far. Regardless, Milwaukee doesn’t have control over that; they can control their own defensive play, which still doesn’t look quite up to their historic snuff. We’ll see if a bounceback shooting game by Orlando tests the Bucks again.
Besides Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac out, Aaron Gordon is still listed as questionable and Michael Carter-Williams is doubtful.
Player to Watch: D.J. Augustin
The veteran guard feels like he’s been able to tear through Milwaukee at points, and even found his way to 10 free throw attempts last game (FWIW - Giannis had eight attempts). His 11 points and 11 assists in game one always seemed like timely connections. The Bucks need backup guards George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo to make him work for his points and penetration.
Game 3: Against Orlando, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)