Postgame Report: Magic at Bucks

By John Denton
Jan. 10, 2018

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks came into Wednesday night an embarrassed and scorned team and one determined to offer up a much better showing than the lopsided loss it suffered in the previous game.

The same sort of desperate and hungry mindset should have applied the Orlando Magic, a 15-point loser a night earlier in Dallas and owners of a five-game skid coming into Wednesday.

However, when the Magic slogged through yet another lopsided, tide-turning third quarter and it couldn’t muster the toughness and defensive grit that head coach Frank Vogel asked for prior to tipoff, they were forced to stomach yet another frustration-filled defeat.

Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points and outplayed counterpart Aaron Gordon as Milwaukee rode a big third-quarter advantage and rolled to a 110-103 defeat of the Magic.

``We weren’t executing well on the offensive end and when we did they weren’t going in and (the Bucks) were running out on us and that got them into a good rhythm,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``We’ve got to be able to play through counters and when the defense switches out and takes one option away, we’ve got to move onto the next option. We don’t do a good job of that and we end up in late shot-clock stuff and end up trying to force and obviously that compromises our defense.’’

No player was more emblematic of the up-and-down night for the Magic (12-30) than Gordon, who finished with 11 points. The Orlando forward drilled four of his first six shots to key a promising start where the Magic actually led by five points early on. However, Gordon proceeded to miss his next 12 shots as he forced far too many looks against the long-armed Antetokounmpo. For the game, Gordon made just four of 18 shots and missed all five of his tries from 3-point range.

``They’re a long defense, they disrupt a lot of shots and they don’t make it easy to score at the rim,’’ Gordon said. ``My outside shot was definitely not falling and I couldn’t get it going from the outside.’’

For the Magic, the night just produced more misery in a season that has turned sour once again. It’s somewhat difficult to fathom now that the Magic were once 6-2 and later 8-4 considering that they have dropped six in a row, 15 of the last 16 and 26 of 30 since Nov. 10.

Said Gordon: ``What I want to see this do? Start by getting a win. How about that?’’

Milwaukee scored a season-high 68 points in the paint. It’s the third time this season that the 3-point-deficient Bucks have scored at least 60 paint points. They are 3-0 in such games.

``(The Bucks) did a good job of responding. Energy-wise, it was a 10,’’ Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. ``Sharing the ball, getting stops, rebounding and executing the game plan, I thought we did a great job.’’

Too often, the Magic have been unable to turn the tide once an opponent makes a run at them. That was certainly the case again in Wednesday’s third quarter when Milwaukee (22-18) made 80 percent of its shots and dominated the third quarter to the tune of 36-23.

Milwaukee came into the night having dropped a 109-96 decision in Indiana two nights earlier. In that game, the Bucks turned the ball over 13 times in the first 17 minutes and trailed by as much 29 points.

Clearly, the Bucks were determined to play much better on Wednesday night. Sadly, the Magic couldn’t match that intensity or precision after halftime.

``The third-quarter sniper got us again, man,’’ said veteran forward Marreese Speights, who played a second solid game with 14 points and four 3-pointers. ``We’re going to find a way to get out of this little funk that we’re in. There will be better days after this and we’re going to find a way.’’

Evan Fournier scored 21 points – his 15th time this season scoring at least 20 points. Bismack Biyombo chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds.

Mario Hezonja chipped in 13 points and his 3-pointer in the final minute got Orlando within 108-100. However, it wasn’t enough on a night when the Magic shot 43.3 percent from the floor and made just eight of 29 3-point tries.

Milwaukee shot 55.6 percent from the floor despite making just four of 19 3-pointers. All five Milwaukee starters scored in double figures, led by Antetokounmpo’s 26 and Khris Middleton’s 22 points. Eric Bledsoe chipped in 15 points, while reigning Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon, had 14 points and nine rebounds. John Henson hurt the Magic inside for 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Magic were playing a second time in as many nights. They showed tremendous promise early in Tuesday’s game in Dallas, but fell apart in the second half of a 114-99 loss to the Mavericks.

Speights, a NBA veteran of 10 seasons, spoke up several times in the Magic’s huddle in the second half, barking at the squad to play with more conviction and toughness as the game was slipping away in the second half.

``We could have come in here with an excuse because we got in (to Milwaukee) late after coming from Texas, but that’s the NBA and we have to cherish playing basketball,’’ Speights said. ``We get an opportunity to step on that court, we’ve got to go hard. You can’t have an out, using excuses for every little thing.

``I was just trying to help and that’s all I could do,’’ Speights added. ``Playing with a little more toughness and dog when they were trying to out-physical us. If we would have gone out there with a better mindset, knowing that it was going to be a dogfight, we probably would have come out with the win.’’

Having lost on Tuesday and Wednesday, Orlando will use Thursday as a travel day. The team stayed in Milwaukee following Wednesday’s game and will fly to Washington, D.C., on Thursday prior to Friday’s game against the Wizards. Washington beat the Magic 130-103 on Dec. 23 in a game where the Magic were without four starters because of injuries.

The Magic were able to stay within striking distance in the first half, but they hope faded once again in another dismal third quarter. For a third straight game, Orlando was dramatically outplayed in the third period – this time to the tune of 36-23 in the 12-minute stretch after halftime.

Gordon tried to spark the Magic in the third period, but too often he forced shots at the rim are drove into crowds rather than using to the pass to set up teammates for open looks. He missed all seven of his attempts in the period – something Vogel saw as the fourth-year player trying to do too much.

``When they started on a run, he started to force it a little bit, trying to pick up the slack,’’ Vogel said. ``He wants it so bad, but I don’t know if he was doing it the right way. So, it wasn’t a great night for him.’’

The Magic were no match for Milwaukee’s relentless attacking of the rim. The Bucks made a jaw-dropping 16 of 20 shots in the third period with six of those baskets (on seven attempts) coming from Antetokounmpo attacks of the rim. The Bucks scored 28 of their 36 points in the paint to take an 89-69 lead into the fourth quarter.

``Guys are playing hard, but we’re just not a very good basketball team right now,’’ Vogel said of his team’s will to keep fighting. ``We’ve got to fight and execute and we’ve got to play with proficiency.’’

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