Orlando Magic Playoffs View from the Other Side: The Milwaukee Bucks wake up to

The Milwauke Bucks' defense came back with a vengeance to win Game 2 and silence the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
The Milwauke Bucks' defense came back with a vengeance to win Game 2 and silence the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks were lethargic and not aggressive in Game 1. They came back with force to defeat the Orlando Magic in Game 2.

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The Orlando Magic left Game 2 with a bit of quiet confidence.

They dropped the game and pointed to their own struggles from the field and defensively as the reasons for their loss. They feel these are very correctible issues. Nikola Vucevic even took to saying that if the team had been on the road at Fiserv Forum, they would have left Milwaukee for Orlando feeling very happy with the split and encouraged with their position.

Maybe that is rationalization. There is still a lot of work to do to stand up to the Milwaukee Bucks and truly make this a series — let alone, win the whole thing.

The feeling from the Bucks? That is most accurately described as relief.

Seeing the Bucks dominate defensively, holding the Magic to 24 points in the paint and that now-infamous 12-percent shooting performance in the first quarter, was enough to make Bucks writers feel like the team was back to playing its strong defense.

Indeed, Milwaukee dominated the game defensively, knocking the team off its rhythm early. It took Orlando a little while to find its footing. All before the Magic gave way to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brilliance.

The focus for the Bucks coming out of this game was their defense, Jordan Treske of Behind the Buck Pass wrote. They knew they had to play better. And so they got back to their basics.

When the Magic broke the Bucks’ base defense in Game 1, it was a huge victory for the Magic. There was no breaking Milwaukee this time.

Milwaukee gave up less than a point per possession for the first time since the season resumed. The Magic struggled to find shots consistently. And they were playing catch-up the entire way.

Milwaukee has consistently focused on itself when it has faced struggles and difficulties. That was the message Eric Nehm of The Athletic said Mike Budenholzer gave his team after the game.

The increased defensive pressure and physicality definitely played a major role. It was the Bucks getting back to their style of play. they defended significantly better and made the Magic very uncomfortable.

Even pressuring Markelle Fultz played huge dividends, even with his poor shooting. The Magic could not get into their offense. They did this to make it so the Magic could not find the holes in the defense, even if there was the risk that Fultz would get past them and into the paint.

A big difference was the team’s mid-range shooting. Orlando made just 12 of 27 (44.4 percent) on mid-range jumpers according to NBA.com’s tracking statistics. In Game 1, the team made 9 of 19 (47.4 percent).

To prove that Milwaukee was back to itself, Orlando made 16 of 19 shots in the restricted area in Game 1 compared to 8 for 17 in Game 2. The Magic really needed to make shots and they could not get into the paint as effectively as they did in Game 1 without jumpers going down early to break the defense.

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Orlando was definitely taken back by the pressure. that will be their biggest adjustment to Game 3.

Still, there are some wrinkles Bucks fans are concerned about.

The defense was better and Milwaukee controlled the pace of the game, but it is not clear they are truly back to themselves. Orlando is still taking a way a lot of things from Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is undoubtedly the best player in the series. Orlando has put a lot of defensive attention on him. And he has put up some gaudy numbers — 31 points and 17 rebounds in Game 1 and then 28 points and 20 rebounds in Game 2.

But he is not scoring effectively and efficiently. He has shot worse than 50-percent in both games in this series. And he has committed a ton of turnovers.

The Bucks are at least moderately concerned the Magic have knocked Antetokounmpo off his game.

"Giannis Antetokounmpo had a tough time finishing around the rim tonight again, which is something I thought I would never have to type,” Andrew Goodman of Brew Hoop wrote. “He was able to get to the basket in game two but was just missing some really easy shots from a few feet out. We’ve never seen Giannis struggle to finish around the hoop, but he has in the first two games of this series. However, he still managed to put up 28 points, 20 rebounds, and five assists in 32 minutes. He turned the ball over seven times and committed some silly offensive fouls which was pretty much the same story in the game one loss. That’s 12 turnovers in two games now for the Greek Freak, something I am sure he is not happy about."

Further, other elements the Bucks have come to rely on are not coming through for them either.

Milwaukee destroyed Orlando in transition in the four regular-season games, scoring 19 fastbreak points per game in that season series. It was uncharacteristic of the Magic, one of the best defensive teams in transition.

Coach Steve Clifford said he was not thrilled with his team’s defensive discipline. But that is mostly in the half-court. The team broke its wall on a few occasions, allowing Antetokounmpo into the teeth of the defense, collapsing around him in the paint. That opened up the 3-point shooters.

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Even as the Magic struggled to make shots, they still stuck to one of their biggest defensive tenants — not giving up fast-break points.

Milwaukee scored only six fast-break points in Thursday’s win. The team only had 10 in the Game 1 loss. The Magic certainly are doing a good job getting back and preventing the devastating plays that turn small deficits into larger ones.

This is a problem the Bucks are certainly worried about, especially if they plan to advance. Orlando has neutered one of Milwaukee’s biggest attack points.

"“Believe me, the Bucks have certainly tried to generate and make quick shots, even as the Magic have made a point to barricade off the paint and the basket for the Bucks and specifically Antetokounmpo,” Jordan Treske of Behind the Buck Pass writes. “But those attempts are firmly what those are at this point, based on a few numbers. The Bucks have averaged 0.65 points per transition possession, the second-worst mark of all the 16 playoff teams.“Per Inpredictable, the Bucks are averaging 0.91 points per possession after they corral a defensive rebound through their first two games against the Magic. Grabbing and going isn’t as easy as it is when there are fewer odd-man advantages or slivers of space down the floor with the Magic getting back on defense as well as they do, even without key defensive pieces such as Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac.”"

That is a little bit of hope. The Magic are still doing a lot of good things and taking away a lot of what the Bucks want to do. They are proving to be a bigger hindrance than Milwaukee likely anticipated.

The Magic will have to figure out how to break the pressure defense. They will have to make mid-range jumpers and the Bucks are going to make those shots all the more difficult now.

This has become the chess match everyone anticipated between two great coaches.

Orlando has to adjust and has to get recommitted to itself in the same way Milwaukee did in Game 2.

Next. Orlando Magic's Game 1 win is no fluke. dark

For the Bucks, Game 2 was a relief, and perhaps a sign they are ready to start growing again.