Postgame Report: Magic vs. Bucks (3/10/14)

By John Denton
March 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE – The Orlando Magic delivered a haymaker early on Monday night and threatened to knockout the already wobbly Milwaukee Bucks. That didn’t happen, and when the Magic failed to take a second-half punch and respond, they ended up getting laid out in another perplexing road defeat.

Up as much as 18 points early in the game following a stellar start, Orlando came unglued in the second half when Milwaukee guard Brandon Knight got hot and the Bucks simply blew past Orlando time and again on the fastbreak.

The result was a demoralizing 105-98 loss to a Milwaukee squad with the NBA’s worst record. The Magic (19-46) were rested following a day off and at full strength with the return of guard Victor Oladipo, but they were mostly flat after the strong start. Milwaukee (13-50) outscored the Magic 19-5 on the fastbreak, hit six 3-pointers after halftime and outscored Orlando 92-74 after the first quarter.

``That’s just a bad game for us all around, I think, a real tough one,’’ said Magic forward Tobias Harris, who had 11 points in the early going and never scored again. ``It’s real frustrating. We were up 18 points and playing basketball the right way and then to just defer 100 percent from that, it’s disappointing.’’

Much improved at home the past six weeks, the Magic continued to struggle mightily away from the Amway Center. Orlando ended its road losing streak at 16 games two weeks ago in Philadelphia. However, the Magic have now dropped 19 of the past 20 games on the road. Two of the Bucks’ 13 wins this season have come against Orlando – both in Milwaukee.

``Every loss hurts and it’s no fun to lose. As a competitor, every guy in this locker room wants to win, but it’s been the second season where we’re losing and it’s frustrating for guys,’’ Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. ``Me personally, it frustrates me because I know we’re better than we’re playing and we’re better than our record is.’’

Up three going into the fourth quarter, Orlando allowed Knight (24 points) to score the first nine points of the final period. From there, Orlando had little response as Giannis Antetokounm and Ramon Sessions outran them down the floor for fastbreak layups and Khris Middleton drilled two 3-pointers.

``We stopped playing team ball,’’ Harris said. ``We weren’t really defending. … We just weren’t moving the ball. We’ve got to play team basketball if we want to win games. We have to play the way we know how to play to win games.’’

Maurice Harkless had 14 points, while Jameer Nelson added 13 points and seven assists. Arron Afflalo and Oladipo each chipped in 12 points. Vucevic registered his seventh straight double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Magic made 14 of their first 26 shots to race to a big lead, but they shockingly plummeted into a 14-point hole in the forgettable fourth period. Orlando did claw back to within 97-94 with 35 seconds to play, but it could get no closer the rest of the way.

The Magic saw their early lead drop to one in the third quarter when the Bucks repeatedly scored in transition. The Magic turned the ball over five times in the third period, but they were able to hang onto a 71-68 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Magic seemed poised to turn the game into a blowout early on Monday night by racing to an 18-point lead. Orlando had assists on 11 of its first 12 field goals and when Harris ran his way to three straight field goals the Magic had a somewhat-stunning 31-13 lead 80 seconds into the second period.

However, Orlando’s second unit played poorly early in the second quarter and Milwaukee clawed back to within 51-45 by halftime. The Magic surrendered 32 points in the second quarter – 18 of them coming in the paint.

``I’ll give them credit for continuing to play,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We know that NBA games are extremely long and 18-point leads in the first half don’t mean a lot.’’