The road trip continues for Milwaukee as they travel to Orlando for the second half of a back to back slate. It comes after a largely disappointing night in Miami, as the Bucks offense faltered in the third quarter and they were made to pay the price. They eventually went down 85-91 after a spirited fourth quarter fight back fell short.
Joe Prunty’s defense again stood up to maintain their number one ranking since the interim coach took the reigns. On the season they have now moved up to 15th overall in defensive rating (105.7) across the league. It was on the other end the Bucks faulted, as they could only manage a season low (by a long way) 8 points in the third quarter. Milwaukee went into the halftime break with a four point lead, before being utterly destroyed in the third quarter to see them facing an eighteen point deficit heading into the fourth. The Bucks made a late run but it wasn’t to be, Dwyane Wade coming up with the game winning block on Eric Bledsoe’s lay-up attempt with 35 seconds remaining to snuff out the chance of an epic comeback.
It will be the second in a four game season series between the Magic and Bucks, with Milwaukee taking out the first contest 110-103. The Bucks controlled that game throughout and cruised home on the back of 26 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo and 22 from Khris Middleton.
After starting the season 6-2, Orlando have been tumbling down the standings ever since. Their 12-34 record thereafter has them well and truly in contention for a top three selection in this years loaded NBA draft. The injury bug has hit the magic big time through the season with key players missing chunks of games. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon have already been ruled out of this one, and Jonathan Simmons is listed as day-to-day.
At the trade deadline the Magic moved on from point guard and former lottery selection Elfrid Payton for a second round pick. Clearly frustrated with his lack of development and in particular lack of a jump shot, the Magic have turned the ball handling reigns over to nine year veteran D.J Augustine. He responded to the increased role by finishing with 18 points and 9 assists in their latest win against Atlanta.
For Milwaukee, the injury bug hit again on Friday night as John Henson appeared to tweak his hamstring once more during the second quarter. Henson didn’t stay in the game for much longer after that and was restricted to 20 minutes total. Given the short turnaround he appears likely to join Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova on the sidelines.
The Magic have won three in a row, while the Bucks are coming off a loss and a game last night. This has all the hallmarks of becoming a danger game for a Milwaukee team that is desperate to maintain momentum and touch with the Eastern Conferences top teams. Both Antetokounmpo and Middleton were nullified last night against Miami, whilst the bench was largely a negative when on the court. It’s certainly been rare for Giannis to be quelled twice in a row, so the Magic will be on full alert on what to expect. If Milwaukee can secure a 1-1 split from the weekend road trip they will be satisfied. But they have to be wary of a suddenly confident Orlando lineup.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Full Throttle Freak: Rarely have we seen teams be able to handle Giannis at the rim all season. The Miami Heat have been one of those teams however. Due to the stellar man defense of James Johnson and the lurking presence of Hassan Whitside behind him, they forced Giannis away from the rack and into taking jump shots. Eight of Giannis’ field goal attempts were from mid range and beyond, in which he only connected on one. His jump shot has come a long way though unfortunately it was an off night, but there should be no settling tonight. The Magic big man stocks are undermanned and Antetokounmpo should be able to get what he likes through attacking the basket. A monster night appears on the cards for Antetokounmpo if he comes ready to attack.
- Advantageous Rebounding Matchup: Milwaukee lost the rebounding battle 53-37 overall and a ridiculous 13-2 on the offensive glass last night. That’s eleven extra possessions they allowed the Heat to have and it resulted in the second chance points tally finishing at 2-16. In a four point game, that was the difference. Yes, Milwaukee still rank dead last in overall rebounding, but Orlando sit 25th. They are by no means fearful on the glass. With Vucevic and Gordon sitting this one out, it presents Tyler Zeller and Thon Maker with a fantastic opportunity to have a rare win on the glass. A victory on this end of the floor will hold the Bucks in good stead.
- Points Off Turnovers: The last time these two teams met, the Bucks defense was extremely efficient in converting turnovers into good looks on offense. Milwaukee led the points off turnovers count 28-11 despite committing 6 more turnovers of their own. If the Bucks defense, led by steals leader Eric Bledsoe can harass the Magic into turning the ball over with regularity, they should be able to find themselves having success in the open floor going the other way.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus