The Orlando Magic return home from their trip to Mexico City to close out this “homestand” against the still-developing Milwaukee Bucks and their potentially dangerous offense.
Orlando Magic (4-4) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (5-3)
Time/TV: 6 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Bucks by 4/Magic Money Line: +146/Over-Under: 232 on FanDuel
Tickets: $62-$690 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Orlando; Dec. 21 in Milwaukee; April 10 in Milwaukee; April 14 in Orlando
Our Prediction Record: 6-2/6-2 ATS
The most interesting thing about this Orlando Magic team and their growing maturity is: How do they respond? How do they respond to difficult defeats? How do they slow down losing streaks? How do they really and correct mistakes throughout the season?
That is probably as much of what the Magic want to learn as much as they want to accumulate wins. They know there is a long and difficult schedule ahead of them. Especially in this next run through the In-Season Tournament games and Thanksgiving. Orlando always knew the start to the season would be rough.
Credit to them then that they have established an identity and somewhat weather some early injury storms. But this team has to find a way to win. And the late-game struggles that were apparent in Monday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks and Thursday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks still sting.
The Milwaukee Bucks are still getting themselves together. They are not performing at the level they hoped for immediately after acquiring Damian Lillard (he is QUESTIONABLE for Saturday’s game with right calf soreness) and the Bucks’ defense under Adrian Griffin has not quite found its footing.
The question then is whether the Magic can eke out enough offense to stay in this game.
3 Keys To Watch
Defense on Alert
The Orlando Magic have had some slipping on defense since Wendell Carter’s injury — the team has given up 112.3 points per 100 possessions in their last three games since returning from the West Coast road trip but still have a positive net rating.
This team still ranks in the top 10 in defensive rating, but there definitely is at least a little feeling that the defense has slipped. And there are some warning signs.
The Magic have played three teams that rank in the top 10 in offensive rating in the league so far this season — against the LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. Those three games represent their three worst defensive games of the season and the only three times they have given up more than 110 points per 100 possessions.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ offense has come on of late and ranks seventh in the league.
Defenses are always going to play poorer against top defenses. And it should be a credit for Orlando that it takes care of its business against weaker teams. But everyone is thinking about the postseason and how the Magic can stand up to teams like the Bucks. They are going to have to find a way to step up their defense in these marquee matchups.
Learning with Dame
The Milwaukee Bucks may be without Damian Lillard tonight. He also missed Thursday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 54 points in that game, but missed two critical free throws late that allowed Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers to get a late win.
This is all to say, there is still a lot of learning and figuring out to do for the Bucks this year. And Milwaukee, despite a 5-3 record to start the season, looks vulnerable as they figure things out.
The Bucks have a -8.6 net rating with Lillard on the floor so far this season — a 107.0 offensive rating and 115.6 defensive rating. The duo of Antetokounmpo and Lillard have a net rating of -4.8 points per 100 possessions (103.6/108.5).
The Bucks have not had the seamless transition offensively that they thought they would with Antetokounmpo and Lillard together. Some of that is certainly Khris Middleton recovering from injury and a new coach on top of that. Their worst fears defensively though have been realized early on this season.
But Giannis is still Giannis. And that will always keep the Bucks competitive.
The obvious answer for so many of the Orlando Magic’s issues this year is simply to make shots. They have done a lot better getting the kind of shots that will help their offense in the long run (shots in the paint and corner threes especially). But the team has to make them.
The good news is that Orlando has been better at making those shots at the Amway Center and in home games. Despite Monday’s terrible second half against the Dallas Mavericks, the Orlando Magic have found a lot of comfort at home.
Orlando is shooting 45.7 percent from the floor and 32.5 percent from three overall this season. In home games (including Thursday’s game in Mexico City), the Magic are shooting 46.8 percent and 32.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Despite those meager percentages, the Magic have a 115.4 offensive rating in home games. That is 11th in the league. So the Magic have found ways to generate points when they are on their home floor. The 3-pointers are still a sore spot, but the team is making more shots and getting to the line plenty.
The Magic certainly had it as a goal to make the Amway Center a tougher place to play. And scoring a win over the Bucks would certainly help build confidence on the home court before heading out on the road next week.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.