Cleaning Up Atypical Mistakes Key for Magic Moving Forward After Setting Franchise Playoff 3-Point Record

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - For just the second time in NBA history, a team made at least 19 3-pointers and lost a playoff game.

That happened to the Orlando Magic on Saturday afternoon, as their postseason franchise-record 19 threes weren’t enough against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of their first round playoff series. The only other time a team knocked down 19 or more triples in a postseason game and lost was in Game 4 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals when the Golden State Warriors sank 20 of them against the Houston Rockets. The Warriors, however, won that series in five games and would go on to win the title. NBA teams are now 25-2 all time when making 19 or more triples in a playoff game.

The combination of Antetokounmpo’s all-around dominance, his team’s offensive efficiency and the Magic’s 18 turnovers, which led to 25 Milwaukee points, was too much for Orlando, now down 2-1 in this best-of-seven series, to overcome.

“They just came out early with a similar defensive intensity and offensive aggressiveness that they did in the last game and we weren’t ready for it,” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said. “Like I told the guys, and we started talking about this since the first day we knew we were going to play them, we have to compete with them. When you play against a guy like Giannis, who is the ultimate competitor, you have to compete with him. Until tonight, I feel like we had done a good job with that. Tonight I think we were a step late.”

Normally one of the most disciplined teams in the NBA, the Magic got a bit sloppy in Game 3, especially early on when the Bucks built a lead that grew as big as 34. That’s extremely atypical for Orlando, which ranked tied for third in the league in the regular season with the Portland Trail Blazers for fewest turnovers committed per game. Also in the regular season, Orlando and the Dallas Mavericks were tied for first in fewest opponent points allowed off turnovers.

“It rocks you,” Clifford said. “We’re going to have to get back to playing the way that we’ve played when we played well this year. Low turnover, win the free throw game, win the rebounding game and limit their fast break points.”

There were definitely some positives that the undermanned Magic could take away from their Game 3 loss, though. Of course, the 19-of-40 3-point shooting was excellent, and again it’s extremely rare to make so many threes and still lose. Even more amazing, it was the first time ever an NBA team in the playoffs shot at least 47 percent from beyond the arc with 40 or more attempts and lost.

Only four times in NBA history, per Stathead, has an NBA team lost a postseason game making at least 40 percent of their threes with at least 40 tries. Twice now the Bucks have been on the winning end. Last year, Milwaukee beat Boston in Game 3 of their conference semifinal series despite the Celtics shooting 40 percent from deep on 40 attempts.

Back to Saturday’s Game 3 between the Magic and Bucks, Milwaukee took just 17 foul shots, nearly eight fewer than its regular season average, and grabbed just three offensive rebounds. The Magic also forced the Bucks into 19 turnovers.

Despite some of those statistical advantages, the Magic will need to elevate their intensity and aggressiveness in Game 4, and the rest of the series for that matter if they want to have a chance of upsetting the Bucks, who had the league’s best regular season record.

“We have to definitely turn it up and match their intensity next game,” said D.J. Augustin, who scored a team-high 24 points in Game 3. “That’s the great thing about the playoffs. We’re still not out of this. We have a chance to come back and get a win and tie it up. We know we have to adjust and just do a better job.”

It would be a big boost for the Magic if Aaron Gordon, who has missed seven straight games including the first three of this series due to a left hamstring injury, is ready to go for Monday’s Game 4. Clifford said prior to Game 3 that he has been making progress, however still wasn’t healthy enough to play on Saturday. The hope is that with an additional two days of treatment that perhaps he will be cleared to play in Game 4.

Injuries have obviously been a huge problem this season for the Magic, who overcame those setbacks to make the playoffs for a second straight year. Al-Farouq Aminu was lost for the season when he injured his knee in late November. Jonathan Isaac suffered two left knee injuries, including an ACL tear during the seeding games. Nikola Vucevic missed 11 games in late November/early December with an ankle injury. Gordon, out now with the hamstring strain, hurt his ankle the same time Vucevic did and sat out a few subsequent games. Michael Carter-Williams, currently nursing a foot strain, has missed time at various points of the season with different injuries. Mo Bamba had to leave the Disney campus for a comprehensive post-coronavirus evaluation.

In the second quarter of Game 3, James Ennis III was ejected following an altercation with the Bucks’ Marvin Williams, who was also ejected.

“It definitely makes it harder. At the same time, though, in this league, and the players know this, whoever’s healthy has to play as well as they can,” Clifford said. “Losing James was a big hit. But we have guys who are capable. It would be one thing to me if we had played well and, say, lost by five and then obviously we’re missing some key guys. But, we have to play better. For two games, except for the first quarter the other night, we had competed hard and tonight we just didn’t do that.”

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