Postgame Report: Magic's Comeback Attempt Falls Short in Loss to Bucks

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – The Milwaukee Bucks, as the NBA universe is well aware of, are championship contenders largely because of everything Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning league MVP and the heavy favorite to win the award again this year, does well.

But, as the Orlando Magic learned on Saturday at Amway Center, the Bucks are not at all a one-man driven team, which may come as a surprise to some who haven’t seen much of them this season. While the Magic did a fairly good job limiting the Greek Freak, who didn’t make his first bucket until the 9:32 mark of the second quarter, Milwaukee’s supporting cast did a ton of the damage in its 111-95 win over Orlando.

“With them, they’re obviously used to seeing people trying to take away Giannis but they run their stuff so well that even if you try to do that there are so many options they can go to, counters and stuff like that,” Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. “Obviously, Giannis does a great job putting pressure on the paint, on the rim and making you collapse, which you have to. He does a good job moving the ball. They keep moving you around and making you scramble.”

Prior to the game, Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said it was imperative for his team to make a ton of their threes because of how well the Bucks protect the paint. Going 10-of-40 from 3-point range obviously wasn’t good enough, especially when Milwaukee was scorching hot themselves from deep.

Aaron Gordon, despite struggling on the other end of the floor with seven points on 2-for-12 shooting, did a commendable job defending the 6-foot-11, 242-pound Antetokounmpo, who connected on just six of his 17 shot attempts and scored 18 points, 12 fewer than his season average. Gary Clark, whom the Magic signed for the remainder of the season earlier in the day, also held his own against Antetokounmpo when he was given that arduous assignment.

“Coming from where I come from in Houston and listening to (PJ Tucker) talk a lot about the things he would do to give yourself a chance to even come remotely close to stopping him with his length,” Clark, who scored eight points off the bench, said about his mentality when defending Antetokounmpo. “Just trying to read him. Not going for some of the fakes, knowing what he’s good at and what he’s not good at.”

Down by 27 in the third quarter, the Magic stormed back and cut the deficit to as low as nine early in the fourth before the Bucks extended their lead again. Brook Lopez, who led five Milwaukee players in double figures with 23 points, buried all five of his 3-point attempts including two in the final frame that prevented Orlando from getting close enough to pull off the comeback.

Vucevic, even though he missed all seven of his 3-point tries, had a solid night, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds for his 26th double-double of the season. Terrence Ross, who had been struggling in recent games, posted 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Markelle Fultz chipped in with 15 points and made a season-high three 3-pointers.

Although inactive for Saturday’s game, James Ennis III was in the building and will participate in his first practice with the Magic on Sunday. Orlando acquired the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder from the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline earlier in the week.

Excited for his fresh start with a team that will almost certainly give him more minutes than he was getting in Philadelphia, Ennis feels he will fit in well in Orlando. Citing his versatility on both ends of the court and his range shooting, the 29-year-old from Ventura, California is looking forward to joining his new teammates.

“Whatever the coach wants me to do as far guard from one to four. I’m athletic. I stretch the floor with my shooting ability (and I bring) high energy, toughness and the grit,” said Ennis, who could play as early as Monday when the Magic host the Atlanta Hawks.

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