Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks (December 21, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic are back in action heading to Milwaukee to face the Milwaukee Bucks in a difficult back-to-back after a disappointing loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic face a tough back-to-back as they head to Milwaukee to take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic face a tough back-to-back as they head to Milwaukee to take on the Milwaukee Bucks. / John Fisher/GettyImages

38. 20-7. 89. 8P. 16-10. Bally Sports Florida. Dec. 21, 2023. Magic Bucks Matchup 12.21.23. Bucks by 8.5 (O/U 237.5)

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Season Series:
Magic 112, Bucks 97 in Orlando on Nov. 11; Tonight in Milwaukee; April 10 in Milwaukee; April 14 in Orlando


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OMD Prediction

Our Record: 17-9/13-13 ATS

Cole Anthony said it best after the Orlando Magic's loss Wednesday against the Miami Heat: There is no easy back-to-back. Back-to-backs are always taxing and always difficult. The travel for Orlando to travel from Central Florida to Milwaukee overnight is about as difficult as it comes in the league. This looks like a schedule loss even before diving into how good the Bucks are.

That is not an excuse. And the Magic have to find a way to get themselves right after losing their last three -- and now five of their last seven after ending their nine-game win streak. That is the real test for this team. How do they find their center and find a way to scratch out wins during this difficult run on their schedule?

This team just needs some confidence right now. That was evident in Wednesday's loss to the Heat. They have lost a bit of their defensive identity and they have lacked consistency on that end, especially when they struggle to shoot.

The Bucks are rolling right now. Milwaukee has won five straight and seven of its last eight games. The team is averaging 134.5 points per game. This is not the team you want to face when your defense is struggling.

89. Prediction. 110. 38. magic Bucks Prediction 12.21.23. 125

3 Keys to Watch

The 3-Point Problem

The Orlando Magic were struggling but keeping pace with the Miami Heat in Wednesday's game when suddenly everything flipped. The Heat used a 17-0 run and did not miss a shot in the final 5.5 minutes of the second quarter (including hitting five 3-pointers in that stretch alone).

The Magic were terrible shooting threes throughout the game and a lot of Magic fans have (rightly) put the focus on the team's shooting. But the issue is still about the Magic's defense and their penchant for giving up tons of threes -- especially when they let their poor offense drag their energy down and affect their ability to get back.

For the season, the Magic are giving up 32.7 3-point attempts per game, the sixth-fewest in the league. Opponents shoot 36.9 percent against them (15th in the league). Three-pointers do not typically kill the Magic.

But in losses, Orlando gives up 35.1 attempts per game and 42.5 percent (the third-worst mark in the league in losses). It is a make-or-miss league and when the Magic get themselves in trouble, it is typically because 3-point shots are falling against them.

Milwaukee is averaging 37.6 3-point attempts per game (eighth in the league) and make 38.2 percent from deep (fourth in the league). The 3-point math will again be a huge challenge for the Magic.

Damian Lillard finding his way

Any time a player joins a new team, there is always an adjustment period. There is no denying that. The Orlando Magic felt it with Joe Ingles and will feel it again as they bring Wendell Carter back to the fold -- and eventually Markelle Fultz (he is OUT again).

Damian Lillard is Damian Lillard though. Adding an All-Star trying to fit into an already established and accomplished group is a huge challenge for sure. And Lillard needed some time to adjust.

He is adjusting though. Lillard is averaging 26.3 points per game and dishing out 7.0 assists per game while shooting 37.4 percent from deep on 8.8 attempts per game. All of those numbers are (expectedly) down from his days in Portland because he is part of a group rather than carrying the load as the main star.

But Lillard is playing a lot better. In his last 10 games, Lillard is averaging 27.4 points per game and shooting 44.3 percent from deep. That includes scoring 40 points in Tuesday's win over the San Antonio Spurs and 39 in Sunday's win over the Houston Rockets.

Getting Franz right

If anybody needs a pick-me-up game and a chance to get right, it is probably Franz Wagner. This season has been a struggle for him despite putting up increased scoring numbers (a career-high 19.6 points per game). He is shooting a career-worst 44.6 percent from the floor and 28.3 percent from deep.

The Magic expect efficiency from Wagner. And while he has done well to explore the limits of his game, the Magic are struggling to get some measure of consistency from their two stars. They know how good Wagner can be. Everyone is eager to see Wagner get back to that consistent level.

The shooting is just weird though. He is missing lots of open shots the Magic should be confident he can hit. It just has not clicked for him yet. And Orlando needs him.

Next. Magic bench success 12.20.23. Magic's bench has been key to success. dark

In the win over the Bucks in November, Wagner scored 24 points and six rebounds in that romp of a win. The Magic would love to see a repeat of that.