Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks (March 1, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic did many of the things they needed to do to snap their losing streak. But still found themselves a hair short. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic did many of the things they needed to do to snap their losing streak. But still found themselves a hair short. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic get a chance to end another Eastern Conference power’s long win streak as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks on the road during this road trip.

Orlando Magic (26-36) at Milwaukee Bucks (44-17)

Time/TV: 8 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Bucks by 8.5
Tickets: $10-$2,667 on StubHub
Season Series: Bucks 109, Magic 102 in Orlando on Dec. 5; Tonight in Milwaukee; March 7 in Orlando

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OMD Prediction

The Milwaukee Bucks are a different team right now. They are on a 15-game win streak to see-saw into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They are a spread-them-out, defensive roadblock juggernaut. They just prevent teams from doing anything easy at all times on the floor. And then they have Giannis Antetokounmpo as a Mack truck driving down the lane when they need him.

The Bucks are very good. And even with the Orlando Magic playing very capably right now, it will still take a supreme effort for them to get a win.

Not that it is impossible. The Orlando Magic ended long win streaks from the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. And the Bucks are on the back end of a back-to-back, having struggled through a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

The conditions are present for an upset if the Magic play with the defensive fervor they played with Monday, minus the turnovers.

89. Prediction. 104. 38. 108

3 Keys To Watch

Start of the run

Most of us like to measure the Orlando Magic’s season starting on Dec. 7. That is when the Orlando Magic ended a nine-game losing streak with an overtime win against the LA Clippers. They were 1-0 after a 5-20 start. But the Magic’s run really started Dec. 5 with a good showing against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Yes, that game was a long time ago. But it shows how the Magic’s length could give the Bucks some problems. Milwaukee jumped on Orlando early and built a sizable halftime lead, but had to sweat things out in the fourth quarter as Orlando made its run. The Magic clearly figured something out in that game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points. The Magic have no one to stop him (and Jonathan Isaac has been ruled out for a third straight game with a hamstring strain). But Franz Wagner led three players with 20 points with 25 (Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz each had 20). The Magic were able to work around their strong interior defense in this one.

Interior Attacking

The Orlando Magic are not a great 3-point shooting team. And that is going to make the Milwaukee Bucks an especially tough nut to crack for them. Because the Bucks’ entire defensive philosophy is based on preventing points in the paint and keeping teams from the rim. That is why Brook Lopez is once again a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bucks give up 49.1 points in the paint per game. That is 13th in the league. In the last 15 games, the Bucks are giving up 47.9 per game, ninth among teams’ last 15 games.

The Magic rely heavily on these shots, scoring 49.0 per game, 17th in the league, and 50.7 per game in their last 15 outings. You can often tell whether the Magic have won by looking at the battle of who won the points in the paint. Remember these do not include the Magic’s ability to get to the line where they remain a top-3 team in free throw rate.

The Magic’s interior defense itself is pretty good — seventh in the last 15 games, giving up 47.5 points in the paint per game. So this will be a big battleground for the team.

3-Point Difference

The Milwaukee Bucks’ offense does not look impressive by the numbers. They are only slightly better than the Orlando Magic in offensive rating. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a constant threat. Getting Khris Middleton back (he is out tonight as part of his knee injury management) has helped. But theoretically, they have plenty of shooting to spread the floor.

Indeed, their offense has taken a jump during their 15-game win streak. The Bucks score 22nd in the league in offensive rating at 112.7 points per 100 possessions. But in the last 15 games, Milwaukee is scoring 116.8 points per 100 possessions, good for 13th in the league in that time.

Their 3-point shooting is a big reason. Milwaukee is fourth in the league overall making 14.4 3-pointers per game (on 40.4 attempts per game). In the last 15 games, the Bucks have made 15.7 per game on 42.3 attempts per game.

The Magic’s major focus on locking down the paint has left them vulnerable to teams that hoist a lot of 3-pointers. Some nights the Magic get burned by teams that just make a lot more of those shots. Orlando can be a victim of bad 3-point luck just as much as the team takes advantage of good 3-point luck.

The Magic are not about to change this style. But they struggle sometimes to keep up with high-volume 3-point shooting teams because they simply do not take enough 3-pointers (or make enough of the ones they do take).

Next. Orlando Magic's plans rest on Markelle Fultz's shoulders. dark

It could be a long night if Milwaukee gets hot from three.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.