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Series-by-Series






Magic need big defense to overcome Bucks' Big Three
Big Dog & Co. Unleashed
By Chris Ford

NBA.com analyst Chris Ford previews the first-round series between the Bucks and the Magic.


Ray Allen scored a career-high 43 points on April 12.
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Three Things For Milwaukee:
  • Must step up their overall defensive game.
  • Can score, but need to shut down teams in crunch time.
  • Tim Thomas needs to continue to bring his strong overall game.

    Three Things For Orlando:
  • Must play with confidence and ignore the nine-game losing streak to Milwaukee.
  • Must defend the Bucks "Big Three" and limit their scoring output.
  • A healthy Darrell Armstrong forcing turnovers and then helping the Magic capitalize in transition.

    McGrady
    McGrady
    Robinson
    Robinson
    Marquee Matchup: Glenn Robinson vs. Tracy McGrady
    It's gimme getcha. You get your two. I'll get my two down on the other end. I don't think Milwaukee is so worried about shutting Tracy down as knowing that they can get their two at the other end. Tracy is going to have his hands full guarding Robinson as well. Who's going to outscore whom? Both players will probably look at it in that manner. Glen is going to say, "Tracy might get his 30, but I'm going to get pretty close to it myself."

    Milwaukee's Offensive Approach:
    They have three players -- Sam Cassell at the point, Ray Allen at the two, and Glen Robinson at the three -- who are among the elite at their positions. Those three guys are tremendous talents and you would rank them in the top four or five at every position. They are guys who can take over games.

    Sam Cassell is very good at getting the ball to Ray and Glenn where they need it. With Ray Allen, he's a guy who can get out and lead a break. He can beat you off the dribble from the perimeter. He can drive by guys and dunk on them. He's a tremendously talented player. Glenn Robinson is good getting down in that low box area and catching and facing up and shooting a jumper over opponent or even shooting turn around jumpers on people down in the low box.

    The three of them can score in bunches. Sam Cassell is really good at getting people down, backing them in, and then giving them a ball fake and then getting them up in the air and drawing a foul to get to the foul line. And they're also a tremendous foul shooting team.

    Orlando's Offensive Approach:
    They're going to have to come with a lot of energy much like they did last year. They have to bring that to the Bucks this time. They have to go out there and get after them defensively. They need to create situations where they can get into transition, because one of the strengths of the Magic is getting out, pushing the ball up the floor, and getting quick shots for Tracy McGrady and Mike Miller and Armstrong and Outlaw, running the floor. That's a strength I think they will look for: trying to create turnovers, and getting out into the break, and creating off those opportunities.

    Tracy McGrady has had an unbelievable year for them. He's been their leader. He's the guy who you put the ball in his hands and he's going to score for you. He's an exciting player from the perimeter, driving by you, posting you up. He has a total offensive game. I didn't think he was going to emerge quite as well as he did. There's no question about his talent but he's brought it up to another level. He could be up there as an MVP candidate.

    The Magic have a lot of depth, guys who can come in there. Mike Doleac is coming off an ankle injury. Hopefully he'll be healthy because he can help spread the defense when they go and double-team McGrady. Doleac is capable of knocking down the outside perimeter shot. Amaechi is the same thing. Garrity. These guys can all knock down some shots.

    Thomas
    Thomas
    Poised For A Big Series:
    For Milwaukee, I think the one guy who's going to have to step up big for them is Tim Thomas. He's missed the last few games with a sore shoulder but he should be ready and up and running. But he's the guy who can provide so many different things coming off the bench for them. And he's the guy who's going to have to step up. He's been behind those other three guys all season long but right now, during these playoffs, he's going to have to be the guy who comes off the bench, firing away, and giving them the energy to get by. He's another talented offensive player. He can do a lot of different things. With his size he can create mismatch problems for other teams.

    Intriguing Subplots:
    The Bucks are coming off a great year. The division title, 52-30. They just have a solid team built around offense. George Karl is known as a defensive coach but he has so many offensive weapons there that that's their strength right now, their offensive capabilities. They swept the Magic this season and have won nine straight, so the Bucks should have a bit of a mental edge.

    The Magic have lost nine straight times to the Bucks. So it's a tremendous mind game that they're going to have to overcome. That's a big factor here is thinking that they can go into Milwaukee and beat them, to come out of there with one win of the two games they're going to be playing there. So far they've not been able to do that. Unless they believe that they can go in there and get one, it could be over very early. They're a team that can, at times, get after you defensively and play some tough defense.

    To nullify that edge, Doc Rivers may have been playing some mind games the other day when he commented that George Karl's team have not fared very well in the first round, he was trying to light the fire a little and maybe his team would get wind of it and start to believe in it, that they can go in there and knock them off. It's no easy task though because the Bucks are just playing great basketball.

    Prediction:
    I like Milwaukee. The only way the Magic can come out on top of this is to go after it defensively. That's their only hope. They've got to come out there with tremendous energy, hustle and scrap and get after every ball. And that was a trademark of the Magic team a year ago. I don't know if they brought that same intensity defensively this year, but it certainly was their trademark a year ago. Doc has got to convince them that that's the only way they can beat the Bucks is going out there and really going after it defensively. I think the Bucks in four. It's nine in a row right now. I think Doc is going to find some way to get a win there.

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