Most of the Milwaukee Bucks’ defeats during a 15-game road losing streak against the Orlando Magic came when Dwight Howard played for the home team.
A less-heralded center is clearly capable of doing enough to hand them another loss in Orlando.
Nikola Vucevic has four straight double-doubles against Milwaukee entering Friday night’s matchup between the NBA’s worst teams.
Howard produced 10 double-doubles in his 13 games in this run at home for Orlando (12-35) over Milwaukee, which last won on the road in this series Dec. 29, 2004.
The man in the middle now for the Magic is Vucevic, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 94-91 win over visiting Milwaukee (8-37) on Nov. 13. He’s averaging 21.8 points and 14.5 rebounds while shooting 58.8 percent in his last four against the Bucks.
Milwaukee is vulnerable with center Zaza Pachulia out with a right foot fracture, while Vucevic will play his second straight game after missing 12 with a concussion. Vucevic returned Wednesday and had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a 98-83 loss at Toronto.
”It looked like his wind was pretty good,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. ”He looked very similar to the Nik that we’re accustomed to seeing.”
Vucevic cautioned that his return alone won’t be the answer for the Magic, losers of 15 of 17.
"We’re not the type of team that’s going to have one guy scoring a lot of points," Vucevic said. "We’ve got to be able to move the ball, get everybody involved and that’s when we’re our best."
The Bucks have lost four straight, 13 of 14 and dropped seven in a row on the road. They capped a three-game homestand with Wednesday’s 126-117 loss to Phoenix.
Three of Milwaukee’s top players were out with injuries in November against Orlando, and all turned in solid contributions Wednesday. Ersan Ilyasova scored 27 points, Brandon Knight added 24 and Larry Sanders played despite an illness that kept him out of one game and had 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
"I wanted to play, that was sort of how I was feeling," Sanders said. "I really felt good about my mind-set going into this game so I think it had some carry-over."
The Bucks finished with a season high in points. They average 91.7 points and are shooting 42.1 percent to rank last in the NBA in both departments.
"We have to keep it under 100 to give ourselves a chance, particularly on the defensive end," coach Larry Drew said. "We’re not built for that."
Milwaukee was without guard O.J. Mayo because of flu-like symptoms, while forward Ekpe Udoh continued to sit out with a sprained left ankle. Mayo had a team-high 25 points in the first meeting while Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 36 – 29 in the second half.
Orlando will also present a different challenge since Glen Davis and Tobias Harris missed the November matchup.
Harris started his career with the Bucks before getting traded to Orlando last Feb. 21. He is averaging 22.0 points on 60.7 percent shooting and 13.5 rebounds per game in two meetings against his former team.