Things fall apart: Magic 94 – Bucks 91

(AP Photo/John Raoux)
All he knows is shoot. It is in his blood. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Milwaukee Bucks 91 Final
Recap | Box Score
94 Orlando Magic
Ekpe Udoh, PF 19 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +6

A surprise starter because of the game-time decision to sit Zaza Pachulia, Ekpe still played less than John Henson, who came off of the bench. When he did play he contributed in all facets except for scoring while not doing anything to stand out. That’s become his M.O. in the last couple of seasons.

Khris Middleton, PF 43 MIN | 6-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 19 PTS | +1

Pressed into a starter’s role by a seemingly endless streak of injuries, Middleton responded with his best game yet as a Buck. He showed a nice jumper in the first half but seemed to get caught up with the rest of the team in yet another second-half slump. Continued solid play will likely continue to earn him starter’s minutes while his teammates battle through injuries.

Caron Butler, SF 42 MIN | 7-17 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -3

He keeps trying to make “Caron iso” a thing. “Caron iso” really doesn’t need to be a thing. I know someone’s got to take on the scoring load for a skeleton crew of a Bucks lineup, but Butler has halted ball movement far too many times in favor of hoisting up his own contested jumper. This resulted in a (dare I say it?) Monta-esque 20 points on 17 shots. Then, in the closing minutes of the game, he suffered a shoulder injury and had to depart to the locker room.

Nate Wolters, PG 40 MIN | 3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +2

A solid, unspectacular night. “Safe” is a good word to describe how Wolters has played the point so far this year. Not very dynamic or creative, but generally reliable if somewhat predictable. It remains to be seen if he will become bolder with his play as his comfort level increases.

O.J. Mayo, SG 44 MIN | 10-22 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 25 PTS | -4

Good (25 points), bad (6 turnovers), and ugly (defensive assignment Arron Afflalo’s 36 points, an ugly game-ending turnover). O.J. needs to be “the guy” for this team, but it’s hard to give him the ball in crunch time when things go as horribly sideways as they did in Wednesday night’s last possession.

John Henson, PF 27 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 5 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -6

He flashed a ton of his now-trusty lefty hook, blocked five shots, and descended from on high to finish an alley-oop from Middleton in the final minute. But the Bucks’ interior defense will suffer as long as Henson struggles to guard heftier opponents as he did tonight against Nikola Vucivic.

Miroslav Raduljica, C 6 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -6

Miroslav made his first basket as a Buck while being pressed into service as the eighth man (of eight) in the team’s rotation. He also just about ended Jameer Nelson with a foul as Nelson drove into the lane. He adds heft to an otherwise wiry frontcourt, but Raduljica has not yet shown the quickness or foot speed to keep pace in the NBA and won’t see much more playing time until he does.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 19 MIN | 1-2 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -5

Everyone got hurt, so Giannis got to play. We all loved his alley-oop on a feed from Wolters. But his raw edges showed through as well – he spent entire offensive possessions standing out at the three point line waiting for the ball to come his way instead of moving and working in the offense. But he’ll learn, won’t you, son? *reaches up* *pats on head* *gives $10 in allowance* Run along, now.

Larry Drew

On one hand, what do you expect a coach to do when he only has 8 players available for a game? Drew’s hands were tied when it came to lineups and rotations, as he seemed more concerned with keeping 5 live bodies out on the floor at a time. On the other hand, the maddening quarter-to-quarter inconsistencies reared their heads yet again. Given time to experiment with a full roster, he may find some answers or at least some stability. But that won’t be the case for some time yet. Godspeed, Larry.

Four Things We Saw

  1. Giannis played a fair amount. Times were had. Good feelings were felt. #GREEKFREAKALERTS were issued.
  2. As great as the first half was, the second half was uglier. Arron Afflalo likely will never get that hot again, but his 8/11 three point shooting and 36 points gave the Magic a huge second-half boost that the Bucks were unable to fend off.
  3. Caron Butler collided violently with Khris Middleton near the end of the game and immediately went down with an ugly-looking shoulder injury. He’ll have an MRI on Thursday morning to determine the extend and nature of the injury.
  4. The Bucks have a single day off to recover before heading to Indiana to take on the Pacers on Friday night.

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  1. I was telling a friend of mine the same thing about Butler, except at least Ellis and heck, even Jennings, were entertaining to watch while they chucked. As awful as it is to say this, I’m sort of hoping Caron is out for an extended period of time. For every point he scores, he hurts the team with his shot selection and do anything besides occasionally score. Get Giannis and Middleton out there for extra minutes.

    It did seem like Wolters was more aggressive tonight, though it didn’t always yield the results the Bucks needed. Hopefully he continues to be more aggressive with the basketball instead of settling, because while it’s great that he’s keeping his turnovers down, he also isn’t doing a ton in terms of creating offense for himself or others.

    And yeah, Mayo is infuriating in his own ways. His turnovers have been consistently high, and besides the game-ending TO, his offensive foul driving into the paint in the fourth quarter with Giannis trailing on the other side of the basket made me jump out of my seat in frustration. Mayo seems to be aggressive towards the hoop at all the wrong times.

    Still, a loss is still a win, especially when the draft is this promising, and when we get to see what our young, promising players can do with extended minutes.

    • Jennings was the opposite of entertaining. Ellis could at least create some shots and get near the hoop, but both took so many terrible shots that were difficult to watch.

      I get genuinely excited when Giannis has the ball, which is largely because he is the future, but also partly because he is the only player I’m confident will try to attack gaps when he catches.

      I agree on Wolters. He doesn’t turn it over because he’s more or less just moving the ball. That’s fine, but it’d be nice to see him try and create something on offense at some point.

      • I should reiterate: Jennings was CAPABLE of being entertaining despite being a chucker. Yes, more often than not he was downright infuriating with his shot selection, but when he was nailing his difficult jumpers, I’ll be damned if I didn’t get really excited about it lol.

        And I agree about Giannis. He seems to be one of the few players on the team able or even willing to find space in the defense and attack the basket. He has to do a better job of taking care of the basketball when he’s driving or posting up near the basket, but it’s all things we can live with when he’s being aggressive and looking to take more efficient shots than, say, Mayo or Caron.

  2. To be fair to O.J., it seemed like that last turnover was more or less understandable given the immediate double-team that engulfed him.
    With only eights guys, why not less minutes for O.J., Caron, Nate and Khris; and more for John, Ekpe, Giannis and Miroslav? The first four played 40 or more minutes (somewhat understandable for Nate given our lack of guards), and I wonder if this heavy workload contributed to our deflation in the second half.
    Also, I don’t understand why John seems to always get relatively few minutes in games, especially as he is arguably our best player so far this season. In general, I think most guys play better in the 16-36 minute range — enough to get in the flow but not so much as to wear down.

  3. The accidental tank seems to be further along than anyone could have predicted. Never like to see injuries (especially half the team). But barring some crazy Hammond trade just to fill out the roster, Middleton and Giannis should get plenty of minutes now and the bucks should lose a lot of games.

    Real question seems to be can they lose enough to be so far out by the time the full roster is back together? If not I worry about the dreaded mid season deal (Rudy gay….).

    Tanking aside I like this team, OJ mayo has been better than I expected. Middleton has justified the Jennings trade by himself and knight remains intriguing.

    • Agreed on the accidental tank. Injuries are playing a role, but for this team, at this moment, there’s nothing wrong with things going this way. It’s the third week of the season, literally almost half the roster is injured, and the young guys are getting burn they otherwise wouldn’t if things were going better.

      I actually like that, too. Last year, there was a genuine sense “Why aren’t they better!?!?” with BJ, Monta, Dunleavy, Redick, etc. Now, it’s an easier-going thing. We can watch the young guys develop and learn, and in doing so think about a brighter day to come. There are worse situations to be in (last year’s, for instance).

      I just wish the NBA weren’t leaning on the franchise like a loan shark. This would all be easier to take without that gun to the city’s head.

      And please: let’s never speak of a midseason deal for Rudy Gay again. We don’t need Hammond tossing Henson and Middleton because Ujiri is a genius and wouldn’t make that deal otherwise…

  4. Just picked up Middleton in my Fantasy Basketball league from off the wavier wires and got Brandon Knight in a trade, so here’s to hoping that Knight’s hamstrings aren’t a constant problem going forward and to Middleton’s breakout that renders old man C.Butler to a sixth man role for the team when he returns.

  5. I’m wondering what this team can do at full strength? Would bet they have enough talent an coaching to get to .500 in short order. My overall assessment is :injured players have cost us at LEAST 1 victory.

    I want everyone to pray for the speedy recovery of injured players, please. Some nice, quality pieces on this roster.
    Some surprises too, Middleton should quickly be given extra mins., good D and he can score too. Few wins and future looks brighter. Go Bucks