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Milwaukee vs. Orlando: Bucks Backups Batter Magic Defense

Even without Giannis and Jrue, this team dominated from start to finish

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks may have been without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, but they didn’t look like it offensively, as they put it on the Orlando Magic to dominate them 134-123 for their 14th straight win against the Florida franchise.

A late run by the Milwaukee Bucks bench crew helped push the team to a double-digit advantage after the first, up 36-26. Orlando quickly made hay in the second to nearly even it up, but another strong push to close the quarter gave the Bucks a 70-60 lead by half. Milwaukee maintained that same distance after three, up 102-92. Orlando kept scrapping, but they just made too many defensive mistakes to make up for Milwaukee just slicing through them with their own offensive actions. The streak now stands at two games.

Three Pointers

Khris Middleton made his first start since December 15. Early on in the game, it was nice to see him take command with no Giannis or Jrue on the court. Immediately he started cutting through the Magic defense for pick-and-roll passing to Brook, then using the threat of those dishes to lean into midrange pull-ups they gave to him. You also knew he was feeling good because he was all-in on getting grifting free throws off Orlando leaping excitedly at his pump fakes. I honestly started feeling bad for them by the time he got Bitadze in the fourth. Khris looked the most in-control he has since his return. He had 24 points (on just NINE shots!) and 11 assists in...drumroll please...31 minutes!

When He Woke Up. Jevon Carter got the start with no Jrue Holiday, and he rewarded Bud aplenty. I know the Carter irrational confidence can cause crazy swings, but it is wild to think this is a player who was known as a timid shooter for the early portion of his career. He had it going all evening against Orlando, not just with his pull-up triples but also driving into the teeth of the defense with his floater working. Plus, he found ways to involve others creating offense in ways he doesn’t normally have to do in this role. He tallied 24 points and five assists on merely 13 shots.

Brook Lopez is ridiculous. I remain in disbelief how good he has looked this season on both ends. He had numerous blocks credited and subsequently taken away (erroneously IMO), but it was obvious the Magic didn’t feel comfortable taking it directly to him in the paint. On the offensive end, with no Wendell Carter Jr., there was no real viable center to disrupt Lopez when he thundered in on his own drives or as a roller. Numerous dunks followed apathetic defense by Orlando, and Lopez continued to deliver as a scoring option for this squad. On just 14 shots, he had 26 points and three blocks (or at least only three in the box score).

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Snack watch came early tonight, Giannis was munching on popcorn from a Magic box within minutes of the game tipping off.
  • Hilarious segment during tonight’s game by Zora Stephenson explaining that Brook Lopez got his midseason haircut this year because his fiance requested him do so before engagement photos in the All-Star break. Just incredible stuff by him.
  • Okay, I’ll stop with the broadcast bits and get to basketball but they were nailing it tonight. Partway through the first they cut to Pat Connaughton’s neck to show it looking red as an apple from sunburns since they’ve been in Orlando.
  • Milwaukee’s pick-and-roll offense looked as smooth as ever in the first quarter tonight, with Orlando frequently unable to stop the roll man freeing up lobs over the top or passes to flashers in the dunkers spot. Even Jevon Carter was able to create off-the-dribble and find Crowder beneath the bucket for a lay-in he biffed.
  • Lindell Wigginton was just signed to a two-way on Tuesday and even got minutes for this game after player earlier with the Herd against the Lakeland Magic.
  • As much as I despise his brother, Franz Wagner really is a delight to watch on both ends. He’s so smooth trying to find his shot and drive to the basket, then does seem to commit himself well defensively.
  • I thought it was interesting that even with Khris Middleton on the court, Bud opted to have Grayson Allen try and D up Franz Wagner on that end. I’ve noticed him putting Allen on some tougher offensive players of late, even taller wings. I’m curious if he’s trying to prep him for the playoffs, and whether it indicates more trust in him than I personally have at that point of the year. For what it’s worth, my eye test has really thought Allen’s looked improved on defense on the ball against a lot of players, I just think he sometimes has trouble finishing the play since his lack of height hinders his ability to deter taller players getting off their shot.
  • Going into this game, I didn’t have “Brook Lopez executes a fake-DHO action atop the key with Joe Ingles that he turned into a drive and trip to the charity stripe” on my bingo card.
  • I still enjoy the stylings of Joe Ingles immensely, but as I’ve seen more of him, he does do two truly infuriating things: throws one looping pass a game to a teammate that is a gimme steal & almost commit transition take fouls on the opponent.
  • The Magic were truly awful off-ball at trying to keep their eyes on someone who is cutting along the baseline to flash in the dunker for a passing lane. So many times Bucks players were able to get easy buckets off lackadaisical defense by them.
  • Credit to Jevon Carter for stopping a 3-on-1 transition chance for the Magic that started with an abhorrent lob pass attempt by Mo Wagner.
  • Steve Novak made a “could be Russian” comment after Lisa Byington talked about the scorekeeper taking away Brook blocks, followed by “listen, I watch cable news...” from Novak. Um...
  • You read my long bullet earlier about Grayson Allen, but watching Jae Crowder guard Franz Wagner in the fourth was a good illustration of why there should still be ample doubts about Allen holding up defensively in the playoffs. On one possession, he got around a screen and prevented Wagner from finding anything easy until he was forced to move the ball around and Crowder eventually tipped the ball to force a steal. Then, he stuck with Wagner and got his body into him to disrupt his dribble for a grab-and-go-and-one opportunity.
  • Milwaukee’s 14 straight wins against Orlando is the longest active winning streak against one team in the NBA.