Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Game 5 Preview

Nikola Vucevic
by Dan Savage

Date: Saturday, August 29, 2020

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET


TV: FOX Sports Florida / ESPN

Mobile: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 96.9 FM the Game / 98.1 SALSA Y MAS

ORLANDO -- Perseverance and grit.

Those are the elements of the Orlando Magic’s character that will be tested on Saturday in their Game 5 matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The thought of overcoming a daunting 3-1 first-round series deficit against the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, on the surface, appears to be an insurmountable task. But under the tutelage of head coach Steve Clifford, the approach has always been about taking things day-by-day and making incremental gains. That approach becomes all the more essential given the circumstances and situation at hand.

“What we have to concentrate on is what we did today (at practice),” Clifford said. “Clarify what (Game 4) was all about – what was good, what was bad – we made a couple of adjustments in our pick-and-roll coverage that will hopefully help us tomorrow, and then we went through two or three things offensively that we think can help also.”

In a recent appearance on the podcast StarTalk hosted by world-renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Angela Duckworth, author of the New York Times best seller Grit, hopped on to discuss the science of grit. Tyson defined the word as when “something goes wrong and do you recover from that,” and Duckworth added that it’s a “combination of passion and perseverance for really long-term goals.”

Talk about a scientific discussion applicable to this squad. The Magic, who’ve endured a number of rebuilding seasons before making back-to-back postseason appearances, know the value of building an organizational culture that focuses on making short-term strides that will equate to long-term gains. Developing the mindset to compete for 48 minutes against elite competition, continuing to value each and every possession, overcoming adversity, and gaining postseason experience for a number of players that have had limited exposure to the playoffs are lessons that will not only help Orlando in its series against Milwaukee, but also assist it moving forward.

Just take a look at Magic center Nikola Vucevic, for example. A year after struggling in the postseason against the Toronto Raptors, he’s responded by scoring over 30 points in three of the four contests against the Bucks. Orlando’s 7-footer is now just one of four Magic players all time to score 30-plus points three times in a playoff series and has the chance in Game 5 to become the first player in team history to do it four times in a series.

For a shorthanded Magic squad that’s won six of the 16 quarters in the series, tied one, and been within two points of tying a quarter twice, Orlando is already making significant strides in the resiliency and perseverance departments.

“I think we’ve done a lot of good things in this series against a terrific team and what we have to do tomorrow is try to put forty-eight minutes together,” Clifford said.

After struggling in the first quarter in Games 2 and 3, the Magic responded with a higher urgency level at the start of Game 4. With the threat of elimination looming in Game 5, setting the tone out of the gate is once again essential.

“Against a team like the Bucks, who are a great team, if you give them a double-digit lead – like we did in Games 2 and 3 – it’s very hard to play,” Vucevic said. “You have to waste so much energy just to get back into it and then your margin for error after that is almost zero.”

In and Out: The Magic listed Aaron Gordon (strained left hamstring) and Michael Carter-Williams (strained tendon, left foot) have been ruled out for the team's fifth contest against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Gordon left the NBA campus on Thursday.

“He’s so frustrated because there were days when he felt good and it looked like he might be close to playing and then every time, I mean, he can’t run, he can’t sprint,” Clifford said. “Every time he tried to amp it up more and do more, he was just never all that close.”

“I’m not sure, truthfully, that there was ever a day you could look at him and say, ‘he’s really close.’ He’s still far away. He was very frustrated, and I think it’s the best thing for him."

Key Quotes: “Lock in. We’ve got to lock in. Bring the same effort, even more (than in Game 4). Our backs are against the wall. Just go out there and play as hard as we can. We’re not going to lay down and make it easy for anybody.” – Magic point guard Markelle Fultz on the team’s focus heading into Game 5.

“First, you have to give credit to the Bucks. (Wes) Matthews is doing a really good job. They have a really good defense. They know everything about us. It’s me being really out of rhythm. It’s a mix of everything. (Game 4) was probably the first time since the playoffs started that I felt like I had good looks. And I just couldn’t make them. It is frustrating, for sure. It’s upsetting and it’s disappointing.” – Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier, who is averaging 11.5 points per game this series – seven points less than his regular season average – while shooting just 33.3 percent shooting from the floor.

Rivals Report: With a 3-1 series lead in hand, the Bucks are certainly hoping to close out the Magic in Game 5 and turn their attention to the Miami Heat, who advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals by completing a sweep of the Indiana Pacers on Monday.

In order to do that, they’ll look to build upon their fourth quarter from Game 4, which featured an 18-2 run led by Khris Middleton. After an up-and-down series and another relatively quiet first three quarters, Milwaukee’s All-Star forward erupted for 18 of his 21 points in the final frame.

“He was really big for us in (that) three or four-minute stretch where we were able to get some separation from them,” Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It felt like he had a ton of buckets in there.”

The Bucks are once again demonstrating the balance that helped them earn the NBA’s best regular season record. On the offensive end in Game 4, the Bucks shot nearly 50 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from distance. On the other end, they held the Magic to just 20 points in the paint and turned Orlando’s 16 giveaways into 17 points.

“We found our identity, which is play defense,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo, who filled up the stat sheet with 31 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. “No matter if you score the ball or not, we’re just going to keep defending.”

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