The Orlando Magic failed to execute down the stretch offensively, throwing away another solid defensive effort and a chance for a big road win.
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The Orlando Magic’s defense gave them every opportunity to win the game. This is the way Frank Vogel envisioned things going this season. With the team’s offensive shortcomings, defense was going to have to anchor the team and give it every opportunity to win each night.
Some nights, it would not be enough. Some nights, the offense would let the team down with poor execution, scoring droughts and, maybe, turnovers.
The Magic put themselves in position to win once again. To this point in the season, Orlando has largely won these close games. The Bucks though stymied and frustrated the Magic throughout the fourth quarter.
Matthew Dellavedova hit the go-ahead 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead for good. The Magic never could make up the deficit fully. Down three with two minutes to go, the Magic seemed to rush through their offense and hoist ill-advised threes, including a contested one from Elfrid Payton early in the shot clock.
Jabari Parker buried the Magic with a fadeaway 3 where he somehow drew a foul on Ibaka after good defense. He made just one of the three free throws, but it gave the Bucks a four-point lead.
The Magic delivered one last turnover on a night where they struggled to protect the ball all evening — 24 turnovers in all — and the Bucks held on for the 93-89 win at BMO Harris Bradley Center on Monday.
Orlando can rightfully look at this game with a tinge of disappointment. There was poor execution throughout the fourth quarter, where they lost a five-point lead. There were 19 turnovers in the first half, giving up a 14-point lead the Magic took right from the start of the game.
None of that mattered in the end. The Bucks were able to force turnovers and get out in transition to stress the Magic defense. Orlando was stout in the half court throughout the game.
But with an offense that was struggling to score in the fourth quarter, the Magic got a taste of their own medicine and could not find their way to a win.
Elfrid Payton set the tone for this game from the very beginning. He was aggressive and just made mince meat of Matthew Dellavedova on both ends of the floor. Payton made a living in the paint and set up the Magic’s 16-2 lead to start the game. It was exactly the kind of play Elfrid Payton needs to have every night. It was aggressive and strong on both ends.
Payton finished the night with eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He added three steals and took Matthew Dellavedova out of the game.
Likely though, none of that will matter to many fans. Payton made one really bad decision late in the game. With the Magic down three and about a minute to go, he took a pull-up 3-pointer early in the shot clock instead of running the offense. That was a killer for the Magic in the end.
Evan Fournier has to be a shooter for the Orlando Magic. Without any stellar offensive players, Fournier has to take and make shots and do so efficiently. That has been something he has struggled with early on int he season.
Fournier again struggled with that against the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting, making two of five 3-pointers. He added five rebounds. And in the second half especially, he was good at getting to the basket and scoring when the Magic needed it.
Fournier though was far from perfect. He committed five turnovers, struggling to know when to pull his drive up short or make a good pass over Milwaukee’s extreme length. Fournier did not have a good game helping the Magic initiate offense. It took a while for him got going and begin to produce.
Serge Ibaka has really begun to find his fit for the Orlando Magic. His killer defense has been reactivated, and he is becoming more consistent on offense. These are all good signs for the Magic. A confident Ibaka is a better Magic team.
Ibaka scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He was solid popping for 3-pointers and trailing for shots. He was active on the offensive glass and generally good around the basket, save for a few fumbled passes and maybe breaking off a play, particularly at the end.
His value though is still immensely at the defensive end. Ibaka had three blocks and did a good job in the half court containing Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. No matter who he was guarding, he did a good job baiting them into 3-pointers, as the gameplan called for, and containing their drives. This is the unicorn quality Ibaka brings.
The Magic are finally seeing it.
Nikola Vucevic continues to struggle shooting. This is his biggest role and his biggest contribution to the team. And his struggles on that end continue to frustrate and puzzle.
He scored eight points on 4-for-12 shooting. He added 11 rebounds and had three turnovers too. It was the kind of mixed bag you get from Vucevic every night, it seems. And that part cannot continue from the veteran center. Orlando needs its jump-shooting big man back.
The Milwaukee Bucks looked really rough early on. They struggled to score in the half court throughout the game. The Orlando Magic seemed to be able to contain them throughout the game. Yet, the Bucks came back and found a way to break through. Each time.
Orlando generally did a good job corralling both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Yet both went off. Antetokounmpo recorded a triple double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He was extremely effective getting out in transition and tearing through the retreating the Magic. Parker scored 22 points and, uncharacteristically, made 5 of 7 3-pointers. Orlando played that strategy perfectly and Parker made them pay.
Defensively, Milwaukee used its length effectively after the first quarter to disrupt the Orlando offense. The Magic got lazy with their passes and the Bucks took advantage seemingly every time.