The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Orlando Magic by the score of 112-97. Giannis put up 35 in the loss, but next up in the box score was (a solid performance from) Cam Payne with 14. By contrast, the Magic featured four players with at least 19: Paolo Banchero (26), Franz Wagner (24), Jalen Suggs (20), and Mo Wagner (19) - despite injuries to Markelle Fultz, Wendell Carter Jr., and Gary Harris. The Bucks were without Dame, for sure, and Jae left the game in the third quarter due to left groin soreness and Thanasis left the game in the fourth quarter due to being Thanasis. But there weren’t many positives in a game that resulted in the Bucks’ first back-to-back losses of the season and the first loss to the Magic since 2018.
The ship didn’t immediately sink for the Bucks. Things were close early, and the Bucks built out a bit of a lead thanks to 12 points from Cam Payne on 4-4 shooting. But things reversed course pretty quickly. Old Friend Joe Ingles was dishing out assists and most Magic players were scoring to take a four-point lead after one.
The second quarter featured sloppiness or hustle, depending on your perspective. Both teams got into the bonus and were hit with technical fouls. Giannis was unable to singlehandedly keep the Magic lead from increasing. Jalen Suggs ended up with 18 in the first half alone as the Magic overall put up 65 :( to the Bucks’ 49.
Khris splashed home some buckets to start the second half, and Giannis did Giannis things:
Back-to-back plays.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 12, 2023
Back-to-back Giannis dunks. pic.twitter.com/oIGlsk8ebR
They compiled a slight run for sake of interest, but the Magic kept churning, getting what they wanted at the rim and returning to the bonus. Thanasis was subbed in with about two minutes to go, and he prompted forced a turnover and had a couple blocks (lol) as the Bucks cut the lead a smidge - only 16 entering the final frame.
Not much to report from the fourth quarter besides the strange lineups that I’ll discuss below. Despite (or perhaps because of) their strangeness, the game briefly teetered toward being within reach, but it never realistically toppled. It was good to see the young guys get some meaningful minutes, even if the minutes being meaningful meant that maybe all of the young guys shouldn’t have been playing at once.
The Bucks return home on Monday to face the ongoing crisis that is the Chicago Bulls.
What Did We Learn?
Griffin might not be the coach to lead us into the promised land. Some quick hits:
- He used his challenge in the second quarter on a Bobby Portis foul as Cole Anthony drove to the rim. It was unsuccessful, but even if it was successful, it was a strange choice.
- Giannis played 37 minutes in a game that was over midway through the third quarter. Not only were they classic Giannis, guns-ablaze minutes, but they were Giannis, overcompensating-for-everyone-else-including-coach minutes.
- Giannis stayed on the court to play alongside... Thanasis and the AJs? And since they inexplicably clawed the deficit to nearly merely single digits, we brought in... Chris Livingston? And when the game was out of reach (again), we brought in... the other Khris? I guess he had some minutes left?
- In the first quarter, Griffin apparently called a timeout to complain to the refs about how they were treating Giannis. Can this not be done during the game? (And does this really affect the outcome?) ((And is this overcompensating?))
Here’s Coach himself:
And then there’s the defense. There was a lot of space in the zone for Franz Wagner to get to the basket with ease. The Bucks aren’t fast enough to cover that space, but are being asked to do so, and when they do cover that space, they often look unsure of what to do in their newfound positions. Coming into this game, I was more of the opinion that the Griffin’s scheme may work, but not with our personnel. But I’m increasingly thinking that the scheme itself may be at fault. By playing random - which, ironically, many fans had clamored for in the Bud Era (albeit more on offense) - the Bucks leave themselves at risk of fouling, (not) rebounding, and being filleted in transition.
At a certain point, these are not bugs of Griffin’s system: they are features.
Three Concerns about the Bucks’ Defense
I highlighted this concern in the Rapid and I’ll start with it here. To be sure, the more glaring disparity here was FG%, where the Bucks missed over half of their attempts at the charity stripe and the Magic nearly hit 90%. But the difference of 10 FTA matters too and was indicative of the Bucks - by virtue of the defensive scheme - finding themselves chasing or in mismatches and ultimately fouling. The Bucks are actually 11th in the league in fewest personal fouls committed, so last night was a bit of an anomaly, but under Coach Bud, they were never lower than 7th (and were usually top-three).
The Magic picked up 15 (!) offensive rebounds last night. Griffin’s scheme does not leave the Bucks in good positions for these boards, and once the opponent corals them, they have ample opportunity to score (22 last night). They are second-to-last in the league in overall rebounding - only ahead of the Wizards - and near the bottom of both offensive and defensive boards. Last season? First. The season before that? First. The season before that? Second. The season before that? Second. The season before that? First. The overall number belies that the Bud-era Bucks were not that great at offensive rebounding, but they were consistently top in the league in defensive rebounding. The plummet is wild.
The general defensive scheme of overloading opposing players persists in transition, which only amplifies its weaknesses. Our older roster struggles to get back in time period, but if two players actually are able to get back in time, they flock the ball-handler, who can easily find an open teammate in the open court. To that end, the Bucks gave up 20 points off turnovers last night, and while they have done well by this metric overall, transition defense remains a concern.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Giannis and Cam were sporting some loud shoes last night. They were the Bucks’ leading scorers, so maybe there’s something there.
- Old Friend Joe Ingles was teasing Lisa and Novak before the game, just like old times.
- Khris played 19:30 and registered 10 points, no rebounds, and seven assists. I thought he looked alright. So there’s that.
- Lisa and Novak were musing on the number 11 when Lisa mentioned that he was sitting next to a #11. Novak assumed it was the guy sitting next to him, when in fact it was Lisa. Women play basketball too, folks.
- Oh MarJon... A missed dunk, a dropped ball, a dribble off the foot - another day in the life of The Chosen One.
- It’s funny that the NBA is hyping up / justifying the in-season tournament by comparing it to soccer. Note to Silver: soccer’s in-season tournaments are (a) old as hell and (b) rapidly waning in popularity.
- Is Robin too tall for the chairs, or is sitting on the ground more of a vibe? Inquiring minds want to know.
- It was a quiet night for Malik Beasley. I’m not sure there is a better option in the starting lineup, though...
- Andre Jackson Jr. first-half minutes continue! Sorely needed energy, tbh.
- The Magic’s mascot - Stuff the Magic Dragon - is simply too much.