View from the Other Side: Milwaukee Bucks just flat in Game 1 vs. Orlando Magic

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a stellar game but still looked uncomfortable in the Milwaukee Bucks loss to the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a stellar game but still looked uncomfortable in the Milwaukee Bucks loss to the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic celebrated a huge win where their execution seemed to be on point. The Milwaukee Bucks were left wondering what went so wrong.

38. 110. 89. Final. 122

The Milwaukee Bucks had been waiting all year for this part of their journey. They had dominated the regular season once again and put themselves in positions as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference and reach the NBA Finals.

The Orlando Magic had some playoff baggage, but it did not compare to the kind of redemption the Milwaukee Bucks needed to have in this postseason. They have title aspirations and the players to get there in the end.

Last year, the Milwaukee Bucks steamrolled over the 8-seeded Detroit Pistons. With the Magic undermanned without Jonathan Isaac, another body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then Aaron Gordon (at least for Game 1), it felt like the path would be easier.

Yes, the Bucks struggled through the seeding round to go 3-5. But some of that was focus. Milwaukee had wrapped up the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They rested a few players and even Giannis Antetokounmpo took his time.

Apparently, Milwaukee cannot flip the switch. Their 122-110 Game 1 loss to the Magic was the shock of the playoffs so far.

From the start of the game, the Magic had the Bucks on their back foot. Orlando played smart and patient attacking the paint and drawing Brook Lopez in to get Nikola Vucevic open shots around the perimeter. The Magic worked the ball to the wings and got 3-point shots.

They made them too — 16 for 41 from deep.

And Orlando’s defense was solid, blocking out 3-point shots and stifling Milwaukee’s devastating transition attack. The Bucks had only 10 fast-break points.

Orlando celebrated a big win. Milwaukee was left questioning itself and just how ready the team was for the Playoffs.

Bucks writers were focused on the no-showing of the supporting cast and how the Bucks’ vaunted defense got eviscerated.

This is not how things were supposed to be. The focus was supposed to switch on. And now it feels like Milwaukee faces a must-win in Game 2 of the playoffs.

To Kyle Carr of Brew Hoop, this was an embarrassing loss and an unacceptable effort. The Magic outworked and outplayed the Bucks in the game. But this is not like anything they experienced before.

The struggles Milwaukee faced in the seeding round seemed to carry over:

"Milwaukee HAS to play better, and everyone in that locker needs to ask themselves what are they going to do to make that possible. Giannis maybe doesn’t need to jack up 7 threes and only take 5 total shots in the first 20 minutes. We already mentioned Khris and Brook, and Bud is going to need to get a better handle on his rotation cause you can’t just casually throw out all bench units hoping they can at least hold their own. The so-called “Bench Mob” needs to be Tony Soprano and his crew, and not Fat Tony from The Simpsons."

It was hard to say the Bucks were completely locked into a gameplan. Certainly not as much as the Magic were.

They had to be to have any chance. From the opening tip, they played with more intensity and focus. They executed their gameplan to near perfection. And their shot-making only added to their confidence.

You could tell that even with Antetokounmpo scoring 31 points and grabbing 17 rebounds that he was searching for a rhythm. Orlando slowed him down effectively enough to knock him and the Bucks out of rhythm.

Milwaukee’s devastating offense could not find its footing. And no one else seemed able to break the Magic’s defense effectively or consistently.

Andrew Goodman of Brew Hoop focused on the supporting cast around Antetokounmpo:

"Oof, the Bucks needed Khris Middleton to step up and he did not. I am one to not slander Middleton, but his play today was unacceptable. He got outplayed by * checks notes * James Ennis III. He played 31 minutes and could only muster 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting while also playing some very lazy defense at times. He did have one nice beautiful dish to Brook Lopez in the second half, but that’s really all the positive that came away from his performance. He committed four turnovers and looked out of sync from the opening tip. I strongly expect Khris to bounce back for game two…can only go up from here."

There is a lot to that.

It felt like the entire game we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Khris Middleton was going to go on a run to catch the Bucks up. He actually nearly did in the third quarter when he strung together some shots to cut the deficit to one.

But then that disappeared. And so did the rest of the supporting cast. Donte DiVincenzo and Pat Connaughton were no shows — five total points and 3-for-10 shooting combined. Both of those guys had killed the Magic throughout.

He was also critical of Brook Lopez’s defense, Eric Bledsoe’s consistency and the Bucks’ over-commitment to the paint — something that is a hallmark of their defense.

These are all big issues the Bucks have to resolve and can resolve.

Tactically, they had no answer for Nikola Vucevic — 35 points on 15-for-24 shooting. As Eric Nehm of The Athletic put it, the struggle defensively got to the point where the Bucks were no longer acting decisively on whether to defend the paint or stick to Vucevic on the perimeter.

As Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game, they ultimately decided on neither.

Kudos to the Magic for taking advantage.

But one thing is clear. The storyline for the Bucks is they did not feel they brought the intensity and focus they needed to win. Their effort waned and the Magic took it to them.

To be sure then, expect the Bucks to be more focused and intense. They will be looking to swarm a bit more and protect the paint. They will dare the Magic to make that many 3-pointers again.

And, for sure, they will be seeking more ways to get out in transition. Orlando is going to have to play with the same intensity and execution while dealing with an angry Milwaukee team. The Magic will have to find a way to frustrate them again.

Next. Orlando Magic's season waited for Playoffs. dark

As for Game 1? The Magic had their number and took advantage of a Bucks team that has lost its way a bit.