Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Game 3 Preview
Date: Saturday, August 22, 2020
Time: 1 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 NBA playoffs are all about making game-to-game adjustments and properly handling adversity.
The Orlando Magic were dealt their first defeat of the postseason, suffering a Game 2 loss at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, with their first-round series tied at 1-1, the focus of Game 3 will be centered around how the Magic respond.
Head coach Steve Clifford spent part of the team’s practice and film session on Friday focused on improving Orlando’s rebounding and helping its scoring options, aside from Nikola Vucevic, get into a rhythm and find easier open looks.
“Their defense was great, there’s a reason why they’re the best defensive team in our league, (so) it takes a lot of things to be able to get the ball going into the paint to consistently create good shots against them,” Clifford said.
The Magic will certainly look to find ways to assist Evan Fournier in finding his offensive rhythm. Orlando’s shooting guard, who averaged 18.5 points per game, while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 39.9 percent from 3-point range in the regular season, is averaging just 10.5 ppg. and shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from distance in the Magic’s first two playoff games.
“I think people have to remember he just went (close to) a week without playing,” Clifford said of Fournier, who missed the Magic’s final three seeding games due to an illness. “It wasn’t like he was even able to work out, he was sick. He would come to practice and sit and watch. So this, in my opinion, is somewhat predictable – he won’t say anything, because that’s not how he’s built and I’m not making excuses for him either – but we’re not going to win without him and it makes sense to me. He’s still played well – he’s not shooting the ball well – but (in Game 1) outside of Vooch, he created our most offense.”
One of the things Orlando will definitely attempt to carry over into Game 3 is the sensational play of Vucevic. The Magic center has been phenomenal in both bouts against the Bucks, averaging 33.5 points and 12 rebounds per game, while shooting 59.6 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range.
He became just the fifth player in franchise history to score 30-plus points in back-to-back playoff games and the first since Dwight Howard, who did it against the Hawks in 2011.
“He puts so much pressure on the defense whether he’s in the post where they're coming quick to double-team him or whether he’s playing out in space,” Clifford said. “Again, he’s played – obviously, these two games he’s been incredibly efficient – really well the whole time we’ve been (in the NBA campus). He put a lot into preparing, I think he’s in a really good place mentally, and it shows.”
In and Out: The Magic once again listed Aaron Gordon (strained left hamstring) as questionable for the team’s third contest against the Bucks and Michael Carter-Williams (strained tendon, left foot) as doubtful.
However, both defensive stalwarts are making progress with AG’s return potentially being more imminent. Gordon was able participate in contact and conditioning drills at practice on Friday and depending how he feels Saturday morning could play in Game 3, which would without a doubt provide a boost for Orlando.
“It would be huge,” Vucevic said. “AG is a big part of what we do on both ends of the floor, but especially defensively. He can match up very well with Giannis (Antetokounmpo). He has the size (and) he has the strength to matchup with him, so that would definitely help us. Hopefully, he can come back in Game 3.”
Key Quote: “We’re feeling good. If this was the regular way and we played two games in Milwaukee (and) we tied one-one, we’d be going home very happy. We’re in a good spot. We have homecourt advantage, the virtual fans are going to go crazy and we’re going to take advantage of that (laughter). We showed that we can play very well with (the Bucks).” – Vucevic.
Rivals Report: The Bucks didn’t make many defensive adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 – which should be expected since they were the No. 1 ranked defensive team in the league this season – but they did play with more aggressiveness and a higher intensity level.
Eric Bledsoe flashed the on-the-ball assertiveness that earned him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive team by picking up Magic point guard Markelle Fultz at or beyond midcourt to start the game.
“They definitely picked up their pressure and intensity, especially the guards,” Orlando backup point guard D.J. Augustin said. “Just trying to make it hard on us to get the ball and get into our offense. They did a great job. I’ll give them credit. But we have to be ready to accept that, be aggressive as well, and attack like we did in Game 1. We’ll be ready for that next game.”
Bledsoe’s tenacity helped set the tone for a Milwaukee squad that held Orlando to just 13 first-quarter points.
“That’s a big way to start a game, to start a quarter, to put your imprint on it,” Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I just thought the guys brought their competitive juices.”
Milwaukee also got increased production from its bench unit led by Pat Connaughton, who knocked down five threes for 15 points, and Donte DiVincenzo, who scored 11.
“That gave the whole team a spark,” Antetokounmpo said of Connaughton’s five triples. “Our bench mob has got to keep it up. They’ve got to do that every night.”
If the Bucks are to make any adjustments heading into Game 3, they’ll likely be centered around trying to find a way to get Khris Middleton in rhythm on the offensive end. Milwaukee’s other All-Star forward is just 5-for-20 from the floor and 2-for-20 from distance in the series, all while committing eight turnovers. Still, similarly to Fournier on the Magic’s side of things, the Bucks have been pleased with Middleton’s defensive efforts and his vocalness on the floor.
“In Game 3, he’s going to be ready,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to come out, he’s going to be aggressive, he’s going to make plays and he’s going to do what he’s been doing all year.”