Opposition Intel: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Orlando Magic Preview With Luke Duffy

As the Milwaukee Bucks look to snap a three-game losing streak against the Orlando Magic, we caught up with Luke Duffy to get the lowdown on Monday’s opponents.

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Welcome to Opposition Intel!

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Milwaukee Bucks were riding high on confidence after some impressive wins, but now on a three-game losing streak, the Bucks need to snap out of their current spot.

A hard-fought game with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday ended in a narrow loss that should give the Bucks confidence, but can they repeat that kind of performance against a so-called lesser team?

For the first of two meetings in six days between the teams, the Orlando Magic will visit the Bradley Center on Monday on more of an upward curve of their own. Having started the season poorly, the Magic have a chance to get to .500 with a win in this one, and certainly won’t be a pushover.

Ahead of the action, we spoke to NBA writer, Orlando Magic fan and friend of the site, Luke Duffy, to find out exactly what to expect in the game, and to learn about what matchups we should be looking out for.

Luke writes about the NBA over at HoopsHabit. You can follow him on Twitter at @LucaLockheart.

Let’s take a look at what he had to say.

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Work In Progress

Adam McGee (@AdamMcGee11): It seemed like a big coup for the Magic when they landed Frank Vogel this summer, but it has been a mixed start to the season. What have you seen from the Magic so far?

Luke Duffy (@LucaLockheart): What I’ve seen is a roster with plenty of new faces trying to figure out the best way to play together, and a head coach who is doing his best to help this process along, without getting in the way. After the 0-3 start I was fearful, and there’s been some ugly games so far, but I think this team is finally righting the ship. It’s unclear exactly how much of that is down to Vogel however, as in recent games it feels like the players are just doing what we have come to expect from them.

Serge Ibaka is beginning to look like the player the Magic hoped he’d be, and Nikola Vucevic looks to be finding his groove again. Defensively I hope they continue to improve, although teams are taking the third fewest three point attempts against the Magic so far this season. I still think there’s something missing, but this is as happy as I’ve been with the roster in a long time.

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Trying To Shape Gordon

Adam: A big talking point in training camp was the idea of Aaron Gordon playing a Paul George type role. Has that idea already fallen by the wayside and were the Magic entering the season trying to overcomplicate things to some degree?

Luke: I wouldn’t say overcomplicate things, I just think they saw a lot of potential in Gordon, and felt he could be be fashioned into a Paul George type of player. It’s not overly surprising either when you consider the Magic also toyed with the idea of Victor Oladipo being the starting point guard at one point. I still have plenty of belief that Gordon can be a top player, but I worry he hasn’t had any consistency around him to grow.

He’s already seen his fair share of head coaches and he’s only 21 years old. He’s been asked to shoot more, be more involved offensively, be more clued in defensively, guard players who are more cunning than he is. It’s a lot to take on in one go, and I don’t think he’s been given a fair chance at improving on certain aspects one at a time. He’s just not a Paul George type, at least to me, but I’m still excited by the prospect of what he will one day be.

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Thoughts On The Bucks

Adam: What’s your impression of Milwaukee’s current roster and how do you expect them to fare over the course of the season?

Luke: I feel less fearful going up against the Bucks than in the last couple of years. This is as much to do with the Magic adding more talent than anything else, but I do feel progress has stagnated in Milwaukee. When they were giving the Bulls a series in the 2015 playoffs they were so fun and exciting to watch. They were an upstart and you felt if they added shrewdly, they could be a postseason mainstay for the next few years. Then they signed Greg Monroe and they just didn’t take off the way I thought they would.

I’m probably the biggest Tony Snell fan there is, but even I was confused by the decision to let Michael Carter-Williams go, just for him. They’ve got Giannis Antetokounmpo, a guy I’d trade any Magic player for, and he can play any position on the court. I’m still not sure where Jabari Parker fits in all of this, but I am a big fan of his. They’re going to be competitive most nights, but the Eastern Conference is a little better than many people realize. I think for that reason they may fail to make the playoffs again this season.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup To Watch

Adam: If you were to single out one matchup as having the potential to be decisive between the Bucks and Magic, what would it be and why?

Luke: Ask most Magic fans, and they’ll tell you they’re still not totally sold on Elfrid Payton as a long term solution to the point guard position on this team. Giannis should be able to go at him with ease. Mirza Teletovic and John Henson may have some joy against Orlando’s second unit as well.

It depends what Evan Fournier shows up, but he could expose some holes in the Bucks defensive capabilities. Really though the position-less fluidity of the Bucks will cause Orlando problems, but if they can get guys like Ibaka, Vucevic and Biyombo in the paint consistently for 48 minutes, they could have some real joy there.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Final Predictions

Adam: What’s your final prediction for how Saturday’s game between the two teams will play out?

Luke: The Bucks have been pretty good at home so far this year, but they’re coming off of three straight losses. They’ll be determined to change that against a team who they are very capable of beating. The Magic finally seem to have found their footing, but every time they look like they’re figuring things out, they produce a tepid performance and undo the good work of the previous couple of games.

These two meet again on November 27th in Orlando, so I can see the Bucks taking this one, with the Magic getting revenge nearly a week later. Really though the fact I can even say with relative confidence that both contests could go either way shows me that the Magic have closed the gap on would be playoff teams in the East, and that alone is reason to smile.

Thanks to Luke for joining us and giving us some Magic insight. Once again, be sure to follow Luke on Twitter at @LucaLockheart and read his work at HoopsHabit.

Be sure to check back in with us on Tuesday for all of the reactions to Monday’s game from the Bradley Center, where tip-off is at 7.00pm CT.

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