In their four wins this season, the Orlando Magic were the sharper team. Even in some of their narrow losses, they hung in there by making all the hustle plays (or “bell plays” as they call them), playing physical, and by limiting their opponent from getting a lot of open threes off drive-and-kicks. Against an elite opponent like the Milwaukee Bucks, those things needed to be done at peak level. They were in the fourth quarter with the reserves on the floor, as Orlando trimmed a 29-point deficit to six late, before falling 117-108 on Saturday night.
A bright spot for the Magic was their bench. The leader of that pack was R.J. Hampton, who matched a career high with 19 points. Mychal Mulder, on a two-way contract with the Magic, also got hot down the stretch and finished with a season-best 13 points. Orlando’s reserves were so good that Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer had to reinsert his starters back in.
Favoring the Bucks were 3-point percentage and free throws. They made 19 threes, their second highest total this season, on 40 attempts (47.5 percent) and took 37 foul shots, their most since attempting 38 of them in a game in the Disney bubble. The Magic, meanwhile, also drilled 19 threes, but on 51 tries (37.3 percent).
A 13-0 run by the Bucks to start the second half created a lot of separation. Bobby Portis, a fan favorite in Milwaukee, buried two of his six 3-pointers during that stretch, while Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, knocked down his one and only triple.
Cole Anthony, the Magic’s leading scorer, missed his first game of the season with a sprained right ankle. Also out for Orlando were Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee) and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain). For Milwaukee, Semi Ojeleye (right calf soreness), Donte DiVincenzo (left ankle), Sandro Mamukelashvili (coach’s decision) and Brook Lopez (back soreness) were unavailable.
This Day in History
On Nov. 20, 1999, Darrell Armstrong scored 21 points and hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers, including one with 12 seconds left that put Orlando up four, as the Magic edged the Hawks in Atlanta. Chris Gatling, an All-Star a couple seasons earlier with the Dallas Mavericks, led the Magic with 28 points off the bench. Dikembe Mutombo led the Hawks with 22 points, 21 rebounds and six blocked shots.
It just seems like only a matter of time before the Bucks are rolling and near or even at the top of the standings, especially once Lopez returns from his lower back injury. They seem to be getting back on track with three straight victories. A sneaky good pickup for them in the offseason was Grayson Allen, who has scored in double figures in 15 of Milwaukee’s 18 games. Their ball movement hasn’t been quite as sharp compared to the last few years, but with such a seasoned group, that should improve as the season goes forward.
Quote of the Night
“They came out and hit us pretty hard in the third quarter there. It was our job to fight back. I think that’s what we did. We were chipping away at it. I think we just got to come into the game ready. I think what’s what that last group did…I was happy with the fight that we showed as a group.” – Mulder
The Magic’s five-game road trip ends Monday with a rematch against the Bucks. Tip-off will be 8 p.m. ET. This is one of three instances this season where the Magic will play the same opponent in the same city twice in a row. Ironically enough, the next time it happens, Milwaukee will again be the opponent, except those games will be in Orlando on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30. The other time the Magic will play the same opponent back-to-back in the same arena will be on Feb. 28 and March 2 against the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center.