Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY
The plan was to use Arron Afflalo as a decoy for much of the night. Orlando took advantage of and feasted on Milwaukee's attempts to double team Afflalo on seemingly every touch. It helped the team space the floor and find driving lanes. If Afflalo was not getting the ball, Nikola Vucevic was breaking down the Bucks defense surgically.
Winning time, though? That had to be Afflalo's time with the ball. And Milwaukee finally found a defense that would not require him to be doubled. That defense was the length of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With the Magic trailing by two points late, Afflalo tried to drive in on Nate Wolters. Antetokounmpo seemed far out of reach. But that young Greek rookie has some insanely long arms.
Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws with 17.3 seconds left to give the Magic a small sliver. That length — along with the length of some of MIlwaukee's other defenders — along with the momentum of the play that was drawn up left Afflalo's 3-pointer from the win short. He was falling away.
That was about all she wrote as the Magic came out of the All-Star Break with a 104-100 loss to the lowly Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Tuesday.
Orlando's offense was by no means horrible. The Magic shot 50 percent from the floor and made 11 3-pointers on the night. Afflalo had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting. NIkola Vucevic had 19 points and nine rebounds. E'Twaun Moore scored a season-high 17 points off the bench, carrying the Magic after they fell behind again in the third quarter.
The offense was not an issue. The only thing that kept the Magic behind the 8-ball was a defense fouling too much, missed free throws (9 for 16 on the night), turnovers (15 turnovers for 22 Bucks points) and some plain awful luck.
That luck was seen most in the go-ahead 3-pointer by Nate Wolters that gave the Bucks a two-point lead with about 30 seconds to play.
Orlando forced the Bucks into a poor offensive possession. Wolters was dribbling back and forth at the top of the key and only momentary created confusion with a screen. Harris was late to contest and Wolters made the basket. He filled the stat sheet with 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The Bucks had plenty of other opportunities where they just made the plays they needed to.
Caron Butler had 21 points on seven 3-pointers, six coming int he first half. Many of those shots were contested. Giannis Antetokounmpo is still a bundle of potential but hardly a great shooter. He made a big 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring in the fourth quarter.
Those ar ethe kind of plays you throw your hands up and take.
What you don't take is the parade Milwaukee had to the foul line. While the Magic struggled to make their free throws, the Bucks nearly doubled the Magic up on free throw attempts. Milwaukee was 22 for 30 from the foul line and that drive to get to the basket and draw fouls. This made up for them returning to the mean some on those 3-point shooters.
Milwaukee throughout the night was making those little hustle plays to keep control of the game. Before Nikola Vucevic gave the Magic a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Orlando's previous two leads were extremely short-lived. A 73-72 lead in the third quarter was followed by an 8-0 Milwaukee run and the lead prior to that was at 9-8 in the first quarter.
Orlando was climbing uphill all night.
It seemed even steeper as Larry Drew used a long defensive lineup that disrupted Orlando's offense. John Henson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brandon Knight gave the Magic's young lineup plenty of issues. It was not enough for Milwaukee to completely pull away — Orlando had some defensive grit of their own to keep things within striking distance and Milwaukee was not exactly stopping anyone — but it was enough to keep the team in the lead.
And with that much length, Orlando was chasing things. The Magic's execution was decent and there was plenty of energy coming out of the break. Orlando just was not able to overcome Milwaukee completely.