Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks (April 14, 2024): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic close their regular season needing a win to assure their spot in the Playoffs and a daunting task going up against the Milwaukee Bucks for all the marbles.
The Orlando Magic get a last shot to clinch their spot in the Playoffs with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on their home floor.
The Orlando Magic get a last shot to clinch their spot in the Playoffs with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on their home floor. / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

49-32. Bally Sports Florida, Bally Sports Wisconsin. 46-35. 1P. 89. April 14, 2024. Magic Bucks Matchup 04.14.24. 38. Magic by 5 (O/U 214)

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Season Series:
Magic 112, Bucks 97 in Orlando on Nov. 11; Bucks 118, Magic 114 in Milwaukee on Dec. 21; Bucks 117, Magic 99 in Milwaukee on April 10; Today in Orlando


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OMD Prediction

Our Record: 52-29/39-42 ATS

Well, here we are. Game 82. The Orlando Magic's hopes of avoiding the Play-In Tournament rest on whether they can win one more game.

That has been the case for most of this week and the Magic have been unable to deliver.

But here they are back home at the Kia Center with the chance to set everything right and punch their ticket, likely securing the 5-seed and a return matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks in the process.

The task will not be easy.

The Magic's game against the Bucks is the only game on the Eastern Conference slate of games (every team is playing on this final day of the season) that features two teams fighting for postseason position. There is a lot of pressure in this game, just as there has been a lot of pressure on all three games of this road trip.

The Bucks appear to be going after the 2-seed, even with the risk of drawing the Philadelphia 76ers or Miami Heat in the first round (although a win over the Magic would likely make it a choice of the Miami Heat or Magic based off Tuesday's 7/8 Play-In Game).

There is a lot on the line for both teams. The question will be about which team comes out on top.

That is going to come down to nothing more than execution and who plays the best game. The Bucks have struggled mightily on the road this season, going just 18-21 on the road and losing seven of their last nine on the road.

The Magic are a significantly better team at the Kia Center. Orlando's 28-12 record at home is the third-best in the Eastern Conference. If the Sixth Man can be a difference, it will be. The Magic just have to play well enough to take advantage of it.

38. Prediction. 108. 89. Magic Bucks Prediction 04.14.24. 115

3 Keys to Watch

Back to Basics of Your Defense

If there is one thing that has anchored the Orlando Magic throughout the season, it has been their defense. They said repeatedly they believed their defense would travel and help them in the Playoffs. They rank third in the league in defensive rating. It has been their backbone all year.

Even with their inconsistent offense, their defense was so good that it gave them a chance to win and gave Paolo Banchero a chance to try to close it out.

That is what was missing on this road trip.

The Magic gave up 110-plus points in three straight games for the first time since early January (the double-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings and then the pair of wins over the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks).

To say the least, the defense has taken an unexpected downturn at the worst time. The question is whether that is a matter of bad shooting luck combined with a tired team not bringing the right focus or even some bad matchups with 5-out offenses that can stretch the team.

Regardless, if the Magic want to win this game, it will start with their defense. That is this team's identity. And getting that back under control will be the biggest key to this game. Orlando cannot win if the team does not defend better.

Stepping Up and Filling In

The Milwaukee Bucks will be decidedly more healthy for Sunday's finale than they were Wednesday in Milwaukee.

Khris Middleton will play after he sat out the second night of the Bucks' home-home back-to-back on Wednesday. He scored 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

Damian Lillard will still soak up a lot of attention from the Magic's defense. He sat out Friday's game with a left adductor issue and is PROBABLE to play Sunday. He had 29 points on 10-for-19 shooting in the Bucks' win on Wednesday.

The real difference though for the Bucks is who else will help fill in for Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence. That answer became obvious quickly with Bobby Portis scoring 24 of his 30 points in the first half to break the Magic's defense and shift the attention away from Lillard.

Portis came back with just 4 points on 2-for-7 shooting in Friday's loss.

The Bucks were happy to see Malik Beasley find his stroke for 17 points on 3-for-5 shooting from deep. But it is clear the Bucks are looking for consistency. They need one more major scorer to get them through these games.

That will be what Orlando has to be on guard for. The team will put a lot of pressure and attention on Lillard and they will do their best to limit his impact. But a lot of it comes down to whether someone makes the Magic pay for that attention. Portis did that on Wednesday.

On the road, that will be tougher to do. But the Magic will have to be ready to adjust if someone unexpected goes off.

Home/Road Difference

Franz Wagner was not particularly glum when he spoke to the media in Philadelphia after Friday's loss.

Maybe that was a sign that the Orlando Magic were generally pleased with their effort and how they played in a most competitive game. Maybe that is a sign that this team has a ton of confidence at the Kia Center.

The Magic have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference at home with a 28-12 home record (that includes the loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Mexico City. The Magic's offensive rating jumps from 112.8 to 115.4 at home and their defensive rating jumps from 111.0 points allowed per 100 possessions to 108.0.

The Bucks have the opposite problem. Milwaukee is 18-21 away from FiservForum with a 116.5/117.1 offensive/defensive rating split (they are 117.9/115.0 overall).

If the Magic feel they can take a major step forward and win this game it is that their defense is that much better at home and their offense can find some footing a gainst a defense that loses its focus away from home.

Next. Magic dream season 04.13.24. Orlando Magic's 2024 season a dream despite final week nightmare. dark

That is not something to lean on, of course. This is a do-or-die game and the Bucks have far more experience playing under that pressure. But the Magic are looking for their home crowd to give them an energy boost. They will need it because it clearly helps them.