5 keys for an Orlando Magic win in Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks

Nikola Vucevic has done everything for the Orlando Magic in their playoff series. He needs to do more to win Game 5. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic has done everything for the Orlando Magic in their playoff series. He needs to do more to win Game 5. (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic face elimination and have everything on the line as they try to extend their series with the Milwaukee Bucks for one more game.

This is it. There may be no tomorrow for the Orlando Magic. They are facing elimination for the first time. And their season is on the line.

The Magic have played well. They have given the Milwaukee Bucks a clear fight and made their seemingly impending series victory difficult. The Bucks are asking themselves some real questions as they prepare for the next round.

But they have one more task to complete first. The Magic are not done yet.

If Orlando has proven one thing about itself throughout this season and all the injuries and adversity it has faced, it is that the team will fight. With whatever the Magic have, they are going to keep staying in the battle.

Steve Clifford teams are hard to play after all.

They may not have enough to get to the finish line, but they are going to give this last game — or these last games — all they have. The team is too good and now too mature to give up on a series.

The game will be tough. It has been tough throughout.

The margin for error for the Magic is still incredibly small. Orlando could play its best game in Game 5 and still come up short. The Bucks are that good.

Despite some resistance and some challenges, Giannis Antetokounmpo is still having an incredible series. A historic series really. Yet, the Magic feel good about their defense.

Orlando has ridden Nikola Vucevic as far and as much as they can. He has dominated the series, taking the Bucks’ soft mid-range defense and beating it to perfection. But he needs others to step up. It is hard for him to play 48 minutes.

The Magic are going to have to rally and find their best. They, as they have said throughout the series, have to keep getting better.

This playoff showing is better than last year’s playoff showing. Orlando has matured in that sense. The team is better. But it is also facing a better team.

None of that stuff matters. All that matters is this one game. And the chance that still exists to extend and continue the season.

Limit turnovers

Coach Steve Clifford has targeted two areas the Orlando Magic have to improve upon to succeed. And they are both things that should be at the center of the Magic’s identity.

Orlando finished the season fourth in the league with a 12.9-percent turnover rate. The Magic, like all Steve Clifford teams, protected the ball. Teams scored only 14.3 points off turnovers against the Magic in the regular season (second in the league). It was hard to get them to make mistakes.

But the Bucks have done a better job at that. Orlando had 16 turnovers for 17 points in the Game 4 loss. Lazy turnovers in Game 3 were costly in that blowout loss.

In the series as a whole, Orlando has a turnover rate of 14.8-percent (13th of the 16 playoff teams). The Bucks are scoring 16.8 points off turnovers per game in the series.

That may not seem like a huge difference. But those few points are the difference between a manageable deficit and the boulder rolling down the hill. Orlando has to protect the ball better to win and extend its season.

Control the glass

The other element the Orlando Magic have focused more intently on is the defensive glass. That was another element the Magic were extremely strong at throughout the season — 74.9 percent defensive rebound rate, fifth in the league, and 11.2 second-chance points, the fewest allowed in the league.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

In the playoffs, the Bucks have been able to get to the glass. Orlando’s defensive rebound rate has actually increased to 77.6 percent. But Milwaukee is scoring 12.8 second-chance points per game.

Again, the difference is slight. Very slight. But the impact of those extra possessions is huge. It is one less opportunity on offense and precious time lost off the clock.

It is momentum-changing too. Losing that chance or not securing that rebound can be back-breaking for a team playing desperate.

Orlando has been historically good on the glass. But the team’s ability to control the glass will be a sign of its strong defensive positioning. And it will help them get their own fast breaks to score more easily against a tough Milwaukee defense.

Get Evan Fournier going

There is no denying or hiding from it. Evan Fournier has been really bad this postseason.

After averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game on a 56.0-percent effective field goal percentage, his playoff averages have dipped to 11.5 points per game on a 43.3-percent effective field goal percentage. His scoring is actually down from last year’s disappointing playoff appearance.

The truth is despite these struggles, Orlando needs Fournier to get going. The Magic should not be running pick and rolls for him or looking for him to force offense. Orlando needs to find him shots in the flow of the offense where he can get balance. The team has to make things easier for him.

But even Fournier would admit, he has to make things easier for himself. He is struggling to find his rhythm and it is easy to see his confidence is a bit shaken. Fournier needs to see the ball go through the basket and shoot and play confidently.

After all, with how Khris Middleton played this series, it only took a few shots and a few moments for him to get cooking. Fournier does not quite have that ability like Middleton to get his own shot in rhythm over a defense. But Fournier can heat up quickly too. The Magic have to hope it happens.

Stick to what works

The Orlando Magic’s fourth-quarter collapse was frustrating to watch. The team put in all the effort and ability to get itself a win, only to see it unravel. From there it was clear the team was playing on some desperate fumes. Shots were quick and off and Clifford was searching for a group that works to carry the offense, all while the defense was hemorrhaging points.

Clifford can be a bit hard-headed and dogmatic with his rotations. That is part of what has made him successful in building a foundation for this team to grow from. Players knowing when and who they will play with has helped this team grow and mature.

Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks /

Milwaukee Bucks

But this is the playoffs. This is a do-or-die game. If the game is close, the Magic have to stick to the rhythm of the game and go with the group that works.

With Khris Middleton heating up in the fourth quarter, it was a major mistake not to have James Ennis hounding him. The work he has done to slow Middleton down has been stellar. The Magic needed that presence. Gary Clark was hitting 3-pointers throughout the game and gave the best resistance to Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he was out of the game until very late in the fourth quarter.

More than any other time, Clifford has to be willing to feel the rhythm of the game. The hot hand may be a statistical anomaly, but at this point, you have to ride who is playing best in the moment. The Magic cannot rely wholly on what has worked in the past.

One more time, Nikola Vucevic

It is really hard to ask more from Nikola Vucevic. He has had an incredible series, averaging 29.5 points per game and shooting a 63.4-percent effective field goal percentage. He has gained a lot of respect form his detractors in carrying this team.

Vucevic is right that everyone has to do more. For the Magic to extend the series, they need everyone to step their game up and be more efficient and effective.

It feels really bad to ask Vucevic to do more… but he needs to do more. He needs to have another 30-point game (at minimum), shooting efficiently and effectively to break the Bucks’ defense. He needs to seek his ways to attack the paint and get them to collapse because he is such a gifted passer. He needs to be quick to help with the wall and defend the paint, while staying in touch with Brook Lopez, slowing down his 3-point shooting will be another big key.

Vucevic has done all these things throughout the series. It feels like there is not much more he can do individually. But when the team is struggling, which they inevitably will in this game, he has to be the drumbeat that keeps them afloat. It is his confidence that has to help the rest of the team.

Vucevic needs another quick start — that has been no problem in this series. He needs a really strong finish, an area he struggled with during that fourth-quarter run. And he needs to lead this team to the next game.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks finally cash in during Game 4. dark

Game 5 tips off at 4 p.m. with the Bucks leading 3-1 in the series.