The Orlando Magic again struggled to shoot and that infected the rest of their game as the Milwaukee Bucks won easily at the Amway Center.
The Orlando Magic could have a great gameplan against the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, but nothing would matter if they could not execute the final, most important part of that gameplan. Even then, it might not matter. They are on a historic pace, after all.
They had no chance without that last bit. And without it, it was easy to see their attention to detail tail off. They could only sustain things so long against a team that can break even the best defenses when they are firing.
Like so many other games and so many other issues for the Magic this year, it came down to their shooting. And against a team like the Bucks, being unable to shoot is a death knell.
Watching that poor shooting drain the team made things worse. The Magic got open shots and missed them again and again.
The Bucks hit contested shots and despite focused attention on stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo in the paint, they still found space on the outside and in transition. The Magic let mistakes compound over and over again.
The Bucks dominated the first two and a half quarters. The Magic could only control things enough to tread water. And even then, the Bucks were still able to get into their shots easily for a 111-95 victory at the Amway Center on Saturday.
This might not be the best opponent to judge the team’s overall progress. The Bucks are on a historic pace and have the best team in the league. They put a lot of stress on even the best defenses.
But the Magic were struggling even to play good defense. Their poor shooting fed the Bucks in transition a lot — 10 fast-break points — and did not allow the Magic to get set.
Orlando fell behind by 27 points at one point as Milwaukee hit 15 of 39 3-pointers to the Magic 10 of 40. The Magic’s oddly high amount of 3-pointers is a product of the Bucks’ focus on shutting down the lane to all comers. To beat Milwaukee, teams have to hit 3-pointers.
Orlando struggled with that basic task. The Magic missed several open 3-pointers with Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic going a combined 0 for 13 from deep. It was hard to complain about most of their looks either. The team just cannot consistently hit even the good looks they get.
And that only compounds the errors they make against quality teams like the Bucks.
Orlando deserves some credit for getting the lead down from 27 all the way to nine in the fourth quarter. The Magic’s defense got better as the game went on. They hit a few more shots to get them back into the game. But never enough to get all the way back.
The damage was done. The Magic struggled too much at the start to make up ground against a locked-in team like the Bucks.
AARON GORDONF, Orlando Magic
Antetokounmpo finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists. It was hardly a terrible game from him. But Antetokounmpo shot just 6 for 17 from the floor, turned it over five times and had the lowest plus/minus of any of the Bucks’ starters. That probably is not anything. But Gordon did about as good as anyone can on Antetokounmpo with the season he is having.
Gordon could not match his solid defense with any offense whatsoever. Gordon did not make a 3-pointer in six attempts and made just 2 of 12 shots. He really struggled to get any kind of rhythm offensively. But he should have scored more. Most of his 3-pointers were open. It just was not a good night for him.
NIKOLA VUCEVICC, Orlando Magic
Vucevic missed a lot of open 3-pointers in his seven 3-point misses. It was hard to be frustrated with the looks the Magic got for him. It is a shot he can make and one he has to take. Still, it feels like the Magic still have to do more to get him shots in the paint. He made 10 of his 20 shots overall to hit 21 points. He added 14 rebounds and six assists.
Inside the lane, Vucevic was as good as he has been all year. Orlando needed to do a better job creating opportunities inside. That is especially difficult against the Bucks with how they clog the lane. Ultimately, the Magic needed a few more of those 3-pointers to go down. And Vucevic’s poor shooting from there was the story.
TERRENCE ROSSG/F, Orlando Magic
That was especially double for Terrence Ross. Ross did not have his 3-pointer working and the Bucks did a good job chasing him off the line. But that was needed in this game. Orlando had to keep its offense moving and needed to find the holes in the defense. Terrence Ross did that by taking that step in and hitting from inside.
Ross finished with 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting. He did a lot of his scoring in the run that brought the Magic dangerously close to getting back into the game. That was the kind of spark Ross was always supposed to provide. That was a good sign from him.
GARY CLARKPF, Orlando Magic
He stepped up in a big way (for the most part) against the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds, making two 3-pointers in the process. Clark was reliable and doing more than just filling in. It was maybe Clark’s best game since his early game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gary Clark even got the call to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo for long stretches. And while Antetokounmpo was able to overpower him on some occasions, Clark more than held his own. It looks like Clark is getting more comfortable within the Magic’s schemes.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS45-7, 1st East
From the start, the intensity was not there for the Magic. The Milwaukee Bucks were getting wherever they wanted to go, even if the Orlando Magic were doing a good job bottling up Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks did not need to do a ton in this one. The Magic were not anywhere near perfect. The Bucks moved the ball found the open man and hit a ton of shots to stake their lead.
Maybe that is why the attention to detail waned a bit and the Magic climbed back into it. But Khris Middleton (21 points) and Brook Lopez (23 points on 5-for-5 3-point shooting) were always there to close the door on the Magic. They never let Orlando seriously threaten in this one. The Bucks are just seriously very good.
The Orlando Magic are now 22-31 and eighth in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Brooklyn Nets by two games for seventh in the Eastern Conference and lead the Washington Wizards by 2.5 games for the final spot in the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic return to action at the Amway Center on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.