Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks: Game Preview

R.J. Hampton
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic embark on their final trip of the season as they close out their 2020-21 campaign with four straight games on the road.

The Magic’s (21-47) first stop will be in Milwaukee as they go head-to-head with the Central Division champion Bucks (43-25) at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

The matchup will mark the first of four consecutive contests against teams currently ranked fifth or higher in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“Our guys were disappointed in the way that we played (against the Timberwolves); it wasn’t anything crazy, but there was a lot of energy in the gym,” said Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford, whose team practiced for just the first time in over two weeks on Monday. “Being challenged like this and playing elite teams that are playing for something, it will be a good challenge for our guys. It’s something that I think we’ll have the right attitude about.”

While it’s hard to place high expectations and demands on a young, injury-ravaged squad that’s featuring a number of players in their rotation that have been with the team for less than a month, there are certain elements of the game that they can realistically play at a higher level to give themselves a chance to be more competitive against Milwaukee than they were against Minnesota.

“The NBA will bring you to your knees and in a situation like this where we’re going to play (three) more teams with as much talent as (the Timberwolves) or more, all on the road, we need to have the right attitude,” Clifford said. “Hopefully, we can get some purpose of play back and some intensity back.”

That will be critical against a Bucks team that holds the league’s fifth-best offensive rating (116.5) and ranks first in points scored (120.0), fourth in fast break points (14.5), and third in 3-pointers made (14.6) per game.

KEY STAT: R.J. Hampton continues to take advantage of his increased opportunity in Orlando. Against the Timberwolves, the explosive combo guard posted a career-high 19 points while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from 3-point range. It marked the third time in the last five games that Hampton has matched or set a new career best in points scored. Over that span, he’s averaging 17.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s definitely harder to do that sometimes when you hit adversity, but that’s what separates the good teams and the great teams and teams that make it and teams that grow. Right now, it seems like it’s a tough season, but from here we really don’t have anywhere else to go, but up. It all starts in a couple weeks when this thing ends. You have to find a way to get back to neutral, reset, and start that grind again.” – Magic super sixth man Terrence Ross on how a team can maintain a successful culture and belief in winning habits amidst a losing season.

INJURY UPDATE: For Orlando, Wendell Carter Jr. (left eye abrasion) is questionable, while Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left ankle), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Chuma Okeke (sprained left ankle), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), and Terrence Ross (back spasms) are out.

For Milwaukee, Axel Toupane (strained right oblique muscle) did not play against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

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