One thing was very clear by the end of Tuesday night’s Bucks game in Orlando: Orlando is very good, much better than Milwaukee. Breaking news, I know, but I just wanted to get that out there so we were all on the same page, just in case by some chance we weren’t. The Magic are a NBA Finals contender and the Bucks are finally scraping back towards respectability, unfortunately that’s just the reality of the situation. So it’s hard to be too heartbroken about a blowout loss in The Magic Kingdom. The Bucks had been playing some of their best basketball of the season before Tuesday’s game, but it was apparently too much to ask for that to continue on through the evening. The question going forward will be whether or not Tuesday had more to do with playing against Orlando or whether the not-so-long-ago inconsistent Bucks have once again reared their ugly head.
Non-existent once again, the Bucks shot just 36.3 percent. When Jodie Meeks is getting playing time at this point, it’s generally a bad sign. It seems to mean no answers are apparent or the Bucks are looking tired and ragged. Both of those schools of thought applied to a Bucks team in the second game of a road back-to-back.
- Andrew Bogut had another double-double, but it was on the low end of the double-double spectrum at 10 points and 10 rebounds. Bogut had eight points in the first six minutes and wasn’t able to get back in a rhythm again. A good example of Bogut’s importance came in the second quarter when he went to the bench with his second foul (and perhaps fatigue) with 7:26 left in the half. The Bucks trailed by four at the time and when Bogut reentered to begin the second half the Bucks trailed by 14. Without his defense and offense the Bucks went into a funk that would prove to be too much to overcome. It was never a game again.
- Brandon Jennings did serious work against the Heat on Monday distributing the ball and controlling the game. He never had the same impact on Tuesday and that probably had a lot to do with Dwight Howard roaming the court and staying with Jennings’ favorite big man. Jennings ended the evening with just four assists, certainly not enough to offset his poor shooting night (1-7). The Jennings/Bogut pick and roll never got off the ground Tuesday.
- Milwaukee doesn’t take a lot of free-throws, so when they get to the line it’s that much more important that they are connecting. Tuesday was not a banner day for free-throw percentages as the Bucks shot just 9-19, headlined by Hakim Warrick’s 1-6 effort. Hak’ was getting to the line with his typically assortment of pump-fakes and attack moves, but it didn’t do much good when he kept missing the freebies.
Three-point shots have been a theme in the Magic’s wins over the Bucks. They finish the three game series 27-59 (45.7%) against Milwaukee from downtown. Defending the three was an important part of Coach Scott Skiles philosophy of how to defense Orlando when the Magic first came to Milwaukee and the Bucks did it well for the first half of that first game. Since then, the wheels have come off for the Bucks when they meet Orlando and they certainly aren’t alone in that sense.
- Vince Carter nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists after struggling for the entire month of January. All he needed was a game against the Bucks, who he’d been averaging roughly 75 points per game against this year (actually more like 25, but you get what I’m sayin!). Carter is the worst possible match-up for the Bucks, a big two who likes to attack and can shoot it.
- Milwaukee was able to force some turnovers, 14, but as has often been the case, was unable to transform them into many easy baskets. The Bucks had just six fast break points, an all too typical number for a team forcing so many turnovers. The Bucks scored just 16 points off 14 turnovers, while the Magic were able to score 10 off nine Bucks miscues.
So Milwaukee wasn’t able to get the “signature” win they’ve been looking for lately, but that may have been a bit too much to ask for when you look at Orlando’s loaded roster. They have guys not playing that would vie for a starting spot with Milwaukee. Worse yet, the Bucks offense went frigid and they displayed many of the characteristics of the Bucks team of December that has Milwaukee in the current predicament on the outside of the playoffs looking in. But a lot of teams look their worst when facing Orlando’s stingy defense and adept three-point attack, then turn around head to New York and win by double figures. Milwaukee will get their chance Friday.