Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Game 1 Preview

Markelle Fultz
by Dan Savage

Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

Location: THE FIELD HOUSE, Orlando, FL

TV: FOX Sports Florida / TNT

Mobile: FOX Sports GO

Radio: 96.9 FM the Game / 98.1 SALSA Y MAS

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic tip off their 2020 NBA postseason journey on Tuesday when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks for Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

The eighth-seeded Magic will have their hands full with the one-seeded Bucks, who not only finished their campaign with the league’s best record, but also defeated Orlando in all four of their meetings during the regular season.

In order for the Magic to become the sixth team in NBA history to pull off a one-eight upset, Orlando will need to focus in on five key areas:

1) Knock Down Open Threes – Despite having the league’s top ranked defense, the Bucks gave up more 3-pointers than any team in the NBA this season. Since Feb. 10, the Magic have shot 36.4 percent from distance. They’ll need to keep up their scorching shooting to take advantage of the looks they get on the outside.

“We work on our shots every day and we’re going to get a lot of open looks,” James Ennis III said. “If we’re hitting, it’s going to be scary, it’s going to be scary for Milwaukee.”

2) Move the Ball – Without a superstar scoring threat on its roster, Orlando is at its best when it’s sharing the rock. Once again, since Feb. 10 – a timeframe that featured some of the team’s best offensive basketball – the Magic averaged 26.9 assists per game, second best in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat.

3) Transition Defense – The Bucks’ offense excels in a number of areas, but two of their most deadly weapons as a unit are playing at a high pace and scoring in transition. Milwaukee played at the highest pace (105.51) in the NBA this season and averaged the third most fastbreak points per game (18.0).

Orlando is well equipped to negate that advantage as it ranked No. 2 in opponent points off turnovers (14.3) and No. 4 in opponent fastbreak points (11.9).

4) Clean the Glass – Another one of the categories the Bucks led the league in was rebounding. Milwaukee averaged 51.7 boards per game – close to four rebounds more per contest than the next team on the list, the Brooklyn Nets, at 47.9. Once again, the Magic are more than capable of holding their own in that area as they ranked No. 1 in opponent second chance points (11.2), edging out the Bucks, who finished No. 2 in that category (11.3).

“We have to play well on both ends of the floor, but for sure, the rebounding part will be critical,” – Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said.

5) Get the Most Out of Their Best Players – In the playoffs, teams need their stars to shine in order to advance. Last postseason, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross all saw their numbers drop off compared to the regular season. Vucevic, who averaged 19.6 ppg. in the team’s 2018-19 campaign, posted only 11.2 ppg. in the playoffs.

“I didn’t have the series last year that I wanted to have,” Vucevic said. “It was a learning experience for me. It was my first time being in that position. I can learn a lot from that and this year I’m motivated to do much better.”

Fournier and Ross also both had sizable decreases in their points per game and 3-point percentage. Granted against playoff opponents the competition is tougher, but in order to pull off an upset of this magnitude, they’ll need their best to be at their best.

In and Out: Fournier and Ross both have fully participated in the team’s practices as they’ve ramped up their Game 1 preparation and will be available for the series opener.

Aaron Gordon has participated in the team’s walkthroughs, but remains questionable with a strained left hamstring and will likely be a game-time decision.

Michael Carter-Williams (strained tendon, left foot) is doubtful. Al-Farouq Aminu (torn right meniscus), Mo Bamba (post COVID-19 evaluation) and Jonathan Isaac (torn left anterior cruciate ligament) are all out.

Key Quote: “I think the focus and energy level has been terrific. Guys were good today (and) we got a lot done. You can tell they’re ready to play.” – Clifford after the team’s practice on Monday.

Rivals Report: It would be silly to start a series rivals report without beginning with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Arguably the league’s best player and perennial MVP candidate, the Greek Freak was the only player in the NBA to finish the regular season top five in points (29.5) and rebounds (13.6) per game.

Orlando’s best hope in limiting Antetokounmpo falls into the hands of Gordon. Only nine players since 2014 have a better defensive field goal percentage against Milwaukee’s All-Star forward with at least 40 shot attempts.

“He’s technically sound, he’s very competitive and also, he’s a good team defender,” Clifford said. “Against LeBron (James) he does a good job, against Kawhi (Leonard) he does a good job, and he wants to play badly in these games. When you play somebody as great as Giannis, it starts with wanting to have the opportunity to compete against him. I think that’s how Aaron looks at it.”

We’ll dive deeper into a number of the Bucks players as the series goes on, but other names to keep an eye on for Game 1 include: Khris Middleton, who’s made the All-Star Game two straight seasons and is the team’s second leading scorer, Eric Bledsoe, whose elite on-the-ball defensive skills earned him a spot on the 2018-19 NBA’s All-Defensive team, and Brook Lopez, whose dangerous three-point shooting from the center position make him a perfect fit on the floor to accentuate Antetokounmpo’s driving skillset.

Get Off The Bench. Get Into the Game. VOTE.

Prepare now to vote in the general election this November.

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