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Milwaukee vs. Orlando: Bucks Stymie Magic Again, 136-118

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Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

In the last game of the 2021 calendar year, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Orlando Magic in convincing fashion, 136-118. With the victory, the Bucks have pulled off the season series sweep and (thankfully) we don’t need to watch the Bucks and Magic play again until next year.

The contest started with the same sort of intensity you’d expect from a late-December matchup between a mostly-healthy contender and a banged-up challenger; Orlando put up a good fight, but Milwaukee’s talent advantage was simply overwhelming. The Bucks flirted with a double-digit lead for much of the opening period, but a small-ball Magic lineup while DeMarcus Cousins was on the court and the Bucks were switching on defense kept things close. Well, closer, Milwaukee still led 32-24 at the end of one, and Milwaukee’s perimeter defenders kept the pressure off of Boogie well enough during his minutes. The Bucks’ offense kept humming along, leading at halftime 63-51, and it felt like a familiar story as Tuesday.

Orlando kept to the script in the third, which was their best stretch last time. They fought forward with a flurry of scoring supported by 58% shooting (including 6 made threes) to actually re-take the lead after halftime! Milwaukee weathered the storm, thanks to a timely Donte DiVincenzo three and some strong Boogie Buckets, and re-extended their advantage to 96-85 by the start of the fourth. The window for Orlando to take control of the game was held shut (despite their best efforts), and the win was secured for Milwaukee with some strong Giannis dunks to really hammer home the point.

Three Observations

This stretch of games is great to spread the scoring wealth. While the stars reached their customary totals (Giannis with 33, Jrue Holiday with 25, Khris Middleton with 22), Milwaukee had seven players achieve double-digit points. DeMarcus Cousins ended up with 15 (13 in the third quarter!), and Bobby Portis, George Hill, and Donte DiVincenzo all put up 11. It was absolutely a case of Milwaukee feasting against inferior competition, but the offense was also prompt and precise about getting the ball in good spots and putting players in position to make good plays. Legendary broadcaster Jim Paschke weighed in on Twitter after the game with a stat that sums this all up well:

Grayson Allen is in a funk. Remember how incredible his stretch of play was at the beginning of the season? The relatively cheap trade and team-friendly contract extension had fans using the “Jon Heist” nickname again, but Allen has not kept up to those lofty standards lately. Since putting up 25 against the Pelicans on December 17, Allen missed some time (reportedly with a non-COVID illness) and then has scored only 14 points in his last four games, including a woeful 3-for-16 performance on threes. Luckily the Bucks are deep enough to withstand this sort of cold streak, and Allen will surely come around sooner or later.

Is Khris Middleton underrated again? It sometimes feels like it, especially since he had a rough return from his stay in the league’s health and safety protocols last month. But Khris had it going tonight with his jumper, and he’s averaged well over 20 points per game over his last five contests...but it may well be the case that Middleton gets an All-Star snub once again this season. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, to the Bucks or to Khris himself, because he’s still going to hit shots and make plays when it really matters...but the recognition would be nice, too.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Inside the final minute of the first quarter, the Bucks put up an impressive defensive possession with their backups. Jrue Holiday pressured RJ Hampton and poked the ball away twice, and after recovering and passing away the ball Wes Matthews and DeMarcus Cousins contested the scrambled Mo Wagner shot and forced an air ball. It was fun, and I enjoyed it.
  • Speaking of Mo Wagner, ughhhhhhh. There were more than a few instances of his trademark flops, swinging elbows, and other unsavory attempts at ill-gotten advantages. I absolutely get why Giannis nudged him with his noggin in the bubble. Paul Henning nailed it with this one, even if the clownish behavior is concentrated on the elder Wagner brother.
  • The younger Wagner (Franz) still looks like he’ll be a competent player and is even in the Rookie Of The Year conversation, even if he fell far short of his impressive performance last game (only 20 points on 12 shots, rather than 38 on 20 attempts on Tuesday).
  • I can’t prove this, but I am convinced that Donte DiVincenzo has a weird clause in his contract that stipulates that he cannot make a certain percentage of his close range shots. Donte misses so many layups, just…so many.
  • As a long-time League Pass customer, I sprang for the premium subscription and I appreciate getting to watch the in-arena entertainment instead of ads during breaks in the game. But after watching two games of Orlando’s game ops put on whatever they’re running, I almost want the commercials again. Appreciate what Melanie Ricks and the Bucks staff has going on, I’ll tell you that much. The Magic’s show isn’t just bad, it is painfully cheap.
  • This was “announced” during the NBA’s alternate broadcast, which is called “HooperVision.” Both of these are things that exist that I question whether they should exist.
  • Just like on Tuesday, the Bucks kept their starters on the floor until the end of the game because of Orlando’s perkiness. Historically, Coach Bud has been loathe to play his main guys too long or too late in games, so it’s curious to see two straight games where the starters stayed on the floor in a convincing win.
  • This Boogie face is reason enough to guarantee him for the rest of the season. Think of the meme potential!

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