Isaac Earning Praise; Magic Get First Look at Fiserv Forum

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

MILWAUKEE – When Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum squared off last Monday, the two of them thought little of the matchup because they have been playing against one another for years in high school, college and AAU.

However, some in the basketball world looked at how the two young standouts performed in Orlando’s 93-90 defeat of Boston and wondered if it might ultimately be a predictor of what’s to come in the years ahead for Isaac, 21, and Tatum, 20.

When told this week that a Boston radio station spent a chunk of Tuesday debating whether Isaac or Tatum will be the better player in a matter of years, Isaac said: ``Who knows? Time will tell.’’

Isaac, the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, had one of the best games of his career on Monday, battering the Celtics for 18 points, 12 rebounds, two 3-pointers and a steal. And with the game hanging in the balance in the final minute, Isaac got Tatum off his feet with a nifty head fake and then he drilled a 19-foot jumper that proved to be the sealing shot of the night.

As good as Isaac was on the offensive end, he might have been even better defensively. He teamed with fellow forward Aaron Gordon to hold Tatum to three-of-12 shooting and misses on all five of his 3-point attempts. The seven-point night was a rare poor performance for Tatum, who leads the Celtics in scoring this season (18.8 points per game) and was a first-team All-Rookie selection last season (13.9 points per game in 2017-18).

Isaac, who missed most of his rookie season because of a series of ankle injuries, has grown to 7 feet tall and has shown flashes of becoming the kind of spectacular player the Magic thought he could be on both ends of the floor. He headed into Saturday’s game in Milwaukee averaging 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 rebounds while shooting 51.4 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from 3-point range.

After the Orlando/Boston game, Tatum reached out to Isaac to congratulate him on the dramatic growth in his game. Isaac, meanwhile, downplayed the results against a player who was picked three spots ahead of him in the 2017 draft.

``Tatum is my guy and he just told me that I had a good game and I said the same to him,’’ said Isaac, a Florida State product who faced Tatum while he played for Duke. ``I’m sure we’re going to trade wins and losses all through our careers.’’

NEW DIGS IN MILWAUKEE: The Magic got their first looks at the inside of Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum on Saturday. The new arena features 17,500 seats, 848 club seats, three private clubs, 34 private suites and four Bucks’ retail shops.

The dazzling, state-of-the-art facility, located in downtown Milwaukee, features 31 concession stands and 34 restrooms for the fans and there are more than 800 HD flat-screen television monitors sprinkled throughout the building.

Magic CEO Alex Martins and President of Business Operations Charlie Freeman made the trip to Milwaukee with the team and toured the Fiserv Forum prior to Saturday’s game. Martins and Freeman were leaders in the planning and development for Orlando’s critically acclaimed Amway Center, which opened in 2010 and remains one of the top facilities in all of sports.

Magic coach Steve Clifford, who has worked in the NBA for 19 years, marveled at the beauty of the new facility. He didn’t anticipate his team having any trouble adjusting to the sight lines in the new building as it relates to shooting the basketball.

``It’s a nice and really beautiful, but there are so many nice arenas in our league now,’’ he said. ``These (players) are so accomplished and they play so much basketball in so many different settings growing up that I don’t think it will bother them. The only (problems) that I’ve ever heard about are the old places, like when San Antonio played in the (Alamo Dome). The domes are different (for shooters).’’

Fiserv Forum replaced the now-defunct BMO Harris Bradley Center, which is being torn down after serving as the Bucks home since 1988. That arena was often a house of horrors for the Magic, who lost 10 of their last 11 games there. Still, center Nikola Vucevic said he will remember it fondly.

``It’s nice here (at Fiserv Forum), but I liked the old place. I know it was older and outdated, but it had a good feel for playing,’’ Vucevic said of the Bradley Center. ``This one is really nice, and I like the black seats because that gives it a good feel (for shooting).’’

BIG MAN, BIG ADDITION: While Milwaukee’s offseason addition of center Brook Lopez didn’t make many national headlines, it has paid big dividends already to a Bucks team that entered Saturday at 5-0.

Lopez is the rare 7-footer who is more comfortable out beyond 3-point line than he is in the post. Signing Lopez not only gave Milwaukee some of the 3-point shooting that it has greatly sought, but it has also helped create much more space in the paint for superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Lopez came into Saturday averaging 13.4 points a game, but more importantly he’s made 14 of 36 3-point shots. His shooting has fallen right in line with how the Bucks want to play under new coach Mike Budenholzer. Milwaukee entered Saturday first in the NBA in 3-point makes a game (16), 3-point attempts a game (41.8) and 10th in accuracy from the 3-point line (38.3 percent).

``By acquiring (Brook) Lopez – they haven’t really had the spacing (centers) in the past – now they are so spread out and that gives Giannis even more room to kind of go to work, drive and create,’’ Clifford said. ``(Forward Khris) Middleton is playing at a really high level. And they are shooting a ton of threes.’’

UP NEXT: Following an early-morning arrival back in Central Florida from Milwaukee, the Magic are slated to have Sunday off. Orlando will practice on Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.

It will be the first professional meeting between Kings’ power forward Marvin Bagley Jr. and Orlando center Mohamed Bamba. Bagley Jr. was the second overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft, while Bamba went No. 6 to Orlando. They could be paired up against one another during the game as Bamba has spent considerable time at power forward this season while playing alongside of center Vucevic.

Bagley was used off the bench in each of Sacramento’s first five games and he’s averaged 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds.

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