10 wins: Bucks 104 – Magic 100

(AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
(AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
Orlando Magic 100 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Milwaukee Bucks
Ersan Ilyasova, PF Shot Chart 19 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | -6

As he searches for consistency and production, nights with eight rebounds in fewer than 20 minutes are never a bad thing.

Khris Middleton, PF Shot Chart 22 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -7

Reliable Khris Middleton was reliable.

Zaza Pachulia, C Shot Chart 16 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -12

The two missed free throws brought him down to a more human 91.5% on the season from the line. This was Milwaukee’s only real loss on Tuesday.

Brandon Knight, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 3-13 FG | 12-12 FT | 0 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | 0

Without making a three and while failing to get much going from the field, Knight was still able to make a strong impact by consistently heading towards the hoop against a pretty soft Magic defense. Jameer Nelson had trouble containing him and Orlando’s lack of shot-blocking was often obvious when he attacked. His 12 free throws were a new career high.

Nate Wolters, PG Shot Chart 40 MIN | 6-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 8 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | -1

He’s had his share of good games this season, but this was probably his best. It was punctuated with a made 3-pointer with 29 seconds remaining to put the Bucks ahead by two points. After the game, both Larry Drew (with a wry smile) and Wolters said they didn’t think he would have taken that shot two or three weeks ago. But he’s been hitting threes lately (five of his last 10) and you can see that confidence being reflected in his shot selection.

Caron Butler, SF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 7-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 21 PTS | +11

He was on fire in the first half, connecting on six threes. He made just one more in the second half, but did well not to force the action, which has obviously been an issue for him this season.

John Henson, C Shot Chart 32 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-4 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +15

He didn’t look like his usual self when shooting, but he was a factor as a rim protector almost immediately and as a rebounder throughout the night. It’s much more enjoyable when he’s getting big minutes than when the Bucks are getting 35 minutes from Ilyasova.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 2-3 FG | 3-6 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +16

After a rough start to February, Giannis looked energized by his recent All-Star festivities. He hadn’t grabbed eight rebounds in a game since January 11 and he did his usual solid job of taking some of those rebounds in transition to make plays. He had one nice assist to Luke Ridnour in transition and another wraparound pass to an open John Henson for a dunk. Another nice pass led to a Henson alley-oop and he also was on the finishing end of an ‘oop from Gary Neal. A late three and steal really put an exclamation point on one of his better overall games in a while.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +4

Neal often enjoys when teammates pass to him so that he can shoot. That is the perception one gets when watching him play for the Bucks. When he doesn’t get the pass he wants in the spot he wants, he hardly looks thrilled about it.

Larry Drew

Larry Drew spoke about the Bucks coming out with energy before the game because he almost always talks about the Bucks having energy. They did. More importantly, the Bucks played another hapless team, waiting for this season to end. Yes, the Magic have been feistier than the Bucks and have upended Milwaukee twice this season, but ultimately they aren’t much better from a talent perspective. That helped a lot on Tuesday night.

Two Things We Saw

  1. It was the combination of Nate Wolters and Giannis that put this one away. The two of them combined to either score or assist on every one of the Bucks fourth quarter field goals and were in some way responsible for every point the Bucks scored in the final quarter outside of four late free throws from Ilyasova and Knight. Impressive stuff.
  2. As is often the case after the Bucks win a game, I saw plenty of tweets sent in my direction that had the general: WHAT ARE THEY DOING WHY WIN A GAME!? theme. Enough with that. This team isn’t going to rise out of the basement of the Eastern Conference. They will get a fine pick in this upcoming draft. Settle down. When young players are playing well and there’s some obvious development (in the case of Wolters’s outside shooting), just be happy sometimes.

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  1. “They will get a fine pick in this upcoming draft. Settle down. When young players are playing well and there’s some obvious development (in the case of Wolters’s outside shooting), just be happy sometimes.”

    I second that emotion!

    • I felt about Wolters’ 3 the way I felt about the temp in the 40s yesterday afternoon. It’s been a long cold spell and it’s not yet spring, but it sure warmed my heart and buoyed my spirits.

  2. Three wins in 2014 and people are giving you crap about them winning?

    Listen, everybody. Milwaukee, Philly, Orlando, Boston, and Utah: those are your bottom 5 teams in the league this season, in some order. Everyone else is trying to win and make the playoffs, or at least to not be one of the five worst teams in the league.

    Now that the Bucks have planted themselves firmly in last place, it’s time for some wins. Even if they were to go a game over .500 the rest of the way (NOT GONNA HAPPEN), they’d finish with 25 wins. The only two teams it’s conceivable that number could vault them ahead of are Philly (who just might lose out) and Orlando. If they do what it appears is probably the best they can, and win ten games, that’s plenty bad enough to remain the very worst team in the league.

    So then, let them get some wins, and let the kids look good doing it. The sweet pick will be there no matter what happens.

    • I’d certainly like to see some winning momentum to end the season as long as all the young Bucks are getting the majority of the playing time.

  3. I visit your site every after game of the Bucks but this time i would have to disagree with the author on the evaluation of the players! This game was one og Giannis best overall games with his creativity , rebounding and defense and he hets a B+ while Knight , Ilyasova were horrible and got a B!!!!! Come on there Giannis played an A for sure and Ilyasova-Knight a C- . You got it all wrong sorry but this is the right evaluation

  4. I try not to jump to drastic conclusions, but as long as Wolters continues to work on his jump shot I see no reason why he couldn’t be our point guard of the future. His size makes him tough for opposing point guard. His basketball IQ is excellent, and he rarely makes a mistake with the ball in his hands, which is even more remarkably given how much more aggressive he’s been on offense as of late.

    I completely agree about the win as well. We need some positivity as this season comes to a close, especially when the wins are partially a product of our young players improving. Furthermore, the worst record in the league rarely wins the first pick anyways.

  5. Why have the Bucks been much more competive the last 5-6 games? Simply put, they are playing their best player in the “appropriate” positions unlike much of the year.

    It’s no mistake the team functions much better when Wolters is at the point and Knight at the scoring guard. That’s because they are both player their “natural” positions. Knight can explode and score – period. Wolters can do everything else-period. It’s also nice not to see 40 minutes of Luke Ridnour for no apparent reason.

    It seems Ersan is given essentially 15 minutes to show if his shot is falling . Most of the time it isn’t (there goes his trade value) so that’s when Henson gets 30 plus minutes. Which for now, is probably the way it should be.

    Giannis is clearly getting comfortable playing at the pro level. His high level atheticsm and all around skill level makes him a nice complementary player righ now which is what he is. When he tries/is asked to take more shots he becomes what he’s not – a scoring leader.

    Zaa Zaa back adds the muscle we usually lack. The rest off the bench comes and goes. Butler’s 3’s was a nice, rare bonus.

    What becoming clear is if the Bucks had not been devastated by injuries it would have been somewhere around a 30 win team. But that would have meant no top 5 draft pick. So maybe the suffering will ultimately be worth it. We’ll see.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with point two that you made, Jeremy. And Rowe49, I love your point about the Bucks playing players in their appropriate positions!

    This season has already been lost in the sense of making the playoffs or finishing with a winning record, now it’s OFFICIALLY (if they didn’t already understand this) time to see what our young players can do; it’s time to start looking to the future. I feel for all the vets we signed because (supposedly) they were informed that they’d be contending and getting major minutes but hey…things change.