Orlando Magic Grades: Milwaukee Bucks 110, Orlando Magic 101

The Orlando Magic’s win streak came to an end at four, as they could not keep the Milwaukee Bucks under control and find their shot again.

Orlando Magic
101
Milwaukee Bucks
110

There is one shot the Orlando Magic were perfectly fine with the Milwaukee Bucks taking. Yes, they might like a stronger challenge to it, but if everyone else can get themselves set to rebound while Giannis Antetokounmpo measures his next move, they will take it. It is a rare respite against one of the most potent offenses in the league.

Antetokounmpo is so full of potential when he has the ball when left open beyond the arc he knows what he should do, but it still takes time for him to get there. And the Magic were happy to let him think and stew until he finally fired.

Antetokounmpo had done a number on the Magic on the inside. Despite some stern defense from Aaron Gordon and shot-blocking from Jonathan Isaac, he still found holes in transition to score and a way to attack the glass.

But here, he was lining up a 3-pointer. He had made one earlier in the third quarter, this one would seemingly bury the Magic for good. Milwaukee had built an 18-point lead thanks to a stifling defense that kept Orlando off the board. The Magic did not help themselves with missed shots.

This was not going to be their night. Not against the best team in the Eastern Conference.

The Magic have some character though. They were not going to give in so easily. Suddenly the team started cooking. Orlando went on a 13-0 run to draw near the end of third quarter, getting to within five on a Terrence Ross 3-pointer.

The Magic were more than willing to grind. And when they could control the tempo of the game with their defense and their controlled fast breaks before the Bucks could get set, they could find their rhythm and attack.

Orlando had its chance to win the game. But Antetokounmpo is always there. He was always willing to get to work. And the Bucks have surrounded him with enough shooting to give him space and make teams pay.

The Bucks never extended their lead out to the insane amounts they have put them to lately during their now-15-game win streak. But the Bucks still never were challenged after taking their lead back out in a 110-101 win over the Magic at Fiserv Forum on Monday.

Orlando is still looking for a resume-building win so to speak, struggling against winning teams. Once again, the Magic looked like they might get outclasses but kept fighting to make it a game. No one should question the team’s character on that front.

But the Magic again could not hit shots at key moments and made turnovers off opportunities to cut into the lead. Add in the Bucks’ work on the offensive glass and that was enough to keep the Magic at arm’s length.

Aaron Gordon got the primary defensive assignment on Giannis Antetokounmpo and did about as well as anyone could ask. He largely kept Antetokounmpo in front of him in the half-court and forced him into difficult shots for the most part. There were some post defense mistakes, but they were rare. Gordon largely did a good job keeping Antetokounmpo under some semblance of control in the half-court.

Offensively, Gordon is still struggling to find his way and find his consistency offensively. His shot is off and Gordon is searching for it, at times taking the Magic out of their offense. Gordon scored 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting, making just one of his six 3-point attempts. He just could not hit open shots.

The one good thing was his ability and willingness to crash the offensive glass. He had four offensive rebounds and helped keep some possessions alive. He was good on the defensive glass with 13 total rebounds for the game. Gordon just has to add the offensive piece.

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AARON GORDON

F, Orlando Magic

B-

Aaron Gordon got the primary defensive assignment on Giannis Antetokounmpo and did about as well as anyone could ask. He largely kept Antetokounmpo in front of him in the half-court and forced him into difficult shots for the most part. There were some post defense mistakes, but they were rare. Gordon largely did a good job keeping Antetokounmpo under some semblance of control in the half-court.

Offensively, Gordon is still struggling to find his way and find his consistency offensively. His shot is off and Gordon is searching for it, at times taking the Magic out of their offense. Gordon scored 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting, making just one of his six 3-point attempts. He just could not hit open shots.

The one good thing was his ability and willingness to crash the offensive glass. He had four offensive rebounds and helped keep some possessions alive. He was good on the defensive glass with 13 total rebounds for the game. Gordon just has to add the offensive piece.

Jonathan Isaac took his turn defending Giannis Antetokounmpo in stretches. But his main role here was to slide in and protect the rim. He certainly did that with two blocks within the first minute of the game, four within the first quarter and five for the game. Isaac was willing to slide in and take hits and was a good changeup to defend Antetokounmpo.

Isaac too had his struggles offensively. He also had 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting. He struggled to find his range and finish around the basket especially. When Isaac was at his best, the Magic were at this best. He hit his mid-range jumper in that third-quarter run and that picked everyone up.

Isaac, like Gordon, is still searching for consistency. His defensive effort is certainly there. His defensive impact is certainly there. But the Magic are still unsure what to expect from him offensively. The confidence is growing with him, but against a team like the Bucks, the Magic need certainty.

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JONATHAN ISAAC

F, Orlando Magic

B

Similar to Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac took his turn defending Giannis Antetokounmpo in stretches. But his main role here was to slide in and protect the rim. He certainly did that with two blocks within the first minute of the game, four within the first quarter and five for the game. Isaac was willing to slide in and take hits and was a good changeup to defend Antetokounmpo.

Isaac too had his struggles offensively. He also had 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting. He struggled to find his range and finish around the basket especially. When Isaac was at his best, the Magic were at this best. He hit his mid-range jumper in that third-quarter run and that picked everyone up.

Isaac, like Gordon, is still searching for consistency. His defensive effort is certainly there. His defensive impact is certainly there. But the Magic are still unsure what to expect from him offensively. The confidence is growing with him, but against a team like the Bucks, the Magic need certainty.

Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin. They did not have it going in the first half, they got it going in the second.

Ross especially had things going and that energy sparked the team. Ross scored 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting off the bench. He hit on four of his six 3-pointers, one of the few Magic players able to hit 3-pointers consistently.

That floor spacing was critical in the team’s 13-0 run. It was Ross who put a cap on it with a contested three form the corner. Just his ability to hit shots in bunches saves this team in so many ways. Orlando finding him the ball in transition especially is critical to the team’s success.

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TERRENCE ROSS

G/F, Orlando Magic

B+

The Orlando Magic’s run to get back into this game came from the same group that let the deficit get out of control in the first half. The bench has struggled for the Magic as they seek the right combinations and usually goes with the shooting whims of Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin. They did not have it going in the first half, they got it going in the second.

Ross especially had things going and that energy sparked the team. Ross scored 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting off the bench. He hit on four of his six 3-pointers, one of the few Magic players able to hit 3-pointers consistently.

That floor spacing was critical in the team’s 13-0 run. It was Ross who put a cap on it with a contested three form the corner. Just his ability to hit shots in bunches saves this team in so many ways. Orlando finding him the ball in transition especially is critical to the team’s success.

Khem Birch will be a solid backstop defensively for the team. He was signed for his shot-blocking abilities. But it is becoming clearer and clearer against strong centers and disciplined teams that Khem Birch sometimes chases blocks and takes himself out of position. What works for Birch as an energy booster off the bench may not work for him completely as a starter.

The biggest area Birch is struggling in is to stay in position to get rebounds. Six rebounds are not bad for Birch if he were coming off the bench. But they are not what the Magic expect from that position. As much as Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon have improved as rebounders, they still need that primary rebounder at center. And neither Khem Birch nor Mohamed Bamba are going to provide that.

Milwaukee scored 16 second-chance points off 10 offensive rebounds. That feels like a small number. But with the small margin of error against this team, it felt like every offensive board was a killer. Birch is probably as physical as any player on the team right now. But he needs to show a little more discipline to challenge shots and get back to rebounding position.

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KHEM BIRCH

C, Orlando Magic

C-

The Orlando Magic have faith Khem Birch will be a solid backstop defensively for the team. He was signed for his shot-blocking abilities. But it is becoming clearer and clearer against strong centers and disciplined teams that Khem Birch sometimes chases blocks and takes himself out of position. What works for Birch as an energy booster off the bench may not work for him completely as a starter.

The biggest area Birch is struggling in is to stay in position to get rebounds. Six rebounds are not bad for Birch if he were coming off the bench. But they are not what the Magic expect from that position. As much as Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon have improved as rebounders, they still need that primary rebounder at center. And neither Khem Birch nor Mohamed Bamba are going to provide that.

Milwaukee scored 16 second-chance points off 10 offensive rebounds. That feels like a small number. But with the small margin of error against this team, it felt like every offensive board was a killer. Birch is probably as physical as any player on the team right now. But he needs to show a little more discipline to challenge shots and get back to rebounding position.

Khris Middleton, the Bucks could not find much consistent scoring. The Magic’s defense worked when it stayed discipline.

Milwaukee could still make mistakes and have some cold-shooting moments and win the game fairly easily, however. This was not Milwaukee at its best. The Bucks missed some opportunities to blow this game open.

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MILWAUKEE BUCKS

21-3, 1st East

B

The Milwaukee Bucks have set the bar ridiculously high for themselves during this now-15-game win streak. They have blown out opponents with ease and Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting up some insane numbers. Even in a game where the Orlando Magic played some decent defense against him, Antetokounmpo put up some insane numbers — 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

The rest of the Bucks had their struggles though. Yes, Milwaukee ended up hitting 16 of 41 3-pointers. That was the real difference in the game. But outside of Khris Middleton, the Bucks could not find much consistent scoring. The Magic’s defense worked when it stayed discipline.

Milwaukee could still make mistakes and have some cold-shooting moments and win the game fairly easily, however. This was not Milwaukee at its best. The Bucks missed some opportunities to blow this game open.

The Orlando Magic are now 11-12 on the season. They return home to take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.