Orlando will seek to concoct more magic while Milwaukee attempts to buck the trend of disappointing efforts by high seeds when the Eastern Conference clubs duel again in Game 2 of their best-of-seven playoff series Thursday in the NBA bubble.
Nikola Vucevic dominated Milwaukee inside and out, and the Magic stunned the East’s top seed by matching the Bucks’ fast pace in a 122-110 stunner Tuesday in Game 1 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
Ironically, the Bucks found themselves in the shadow of the opponent’s home base even though they finished the regular season 23 games ahead of the eighth-place Magic. In previous seasons, Milwaukee would have hosted the first two games of the first-round series.
“All year we’ve been thriving off our own fans; we don’t have that,” Bucks veteran George Hill noted in the wake of the defeat. “We haven’t figured it out yet. When you get hit in the mouth, you gotta throw the next punch.”
There were no punches thrown in Game 1, but Orlando’s defenders did a good job of getting in Bucks standout Giannis Antetokounmpo’s face. He managed 31 points on 12-for-25 shooting, but also mixed in five turnovers.
The Magic turned Milwaukee’s 16 turnovers into 25 points, and limited the Bucks, who recorded the third-most fast-break points in the regular season, to just 10.
Second-year forward Gary Clark, who was waived in-season by the Rockets and began his Magic career on a pair of 10-day contracts in January, was given much of the credit for the defensive work on Antetokounmpo.
“Obviously, our main focus was try to make it hard on Giannis, to protect the paint,” Vucevic said. “We did that as a team. Gary did a great job fighting him and we were able to help.”
When things slowed down, Vucevic was a one-man wrecking crew.
Vucevic totaled 35 points and 14 rebounds, etched his name in Magic lore by becoming just the fourth player to have a 35/10 playoff game, joining Shaquille O’Neal (four times), Dwight Howard (three) and Tracy McGrady (one).
He scorched the Bucks on the perimeter with 5-for-8 accuracy on 3-pointers, then went inside to add another 10-for-16.
All told, he shot 15-for-24, helping the Magic record the third-most 3-pointers (16) in franchise playoff history and the second-most points, missing by two the team record of 124 put up against Boston in Game 1 of the 1995 first round.
Terrence Ross complemented Vucevic with 18 points off the bench.
Meanwhile, Khris Middleton, usually Antetokounmpo’s able sidekick, was held to 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
The Magic outshot the Bucks 49.4 percent to 43.3, producing another of the game’s head-scratching disparities. Milwaukee ranked third in the NBA during the regular season in field goal percentage at 47.6, while the Magic were 27th (44.4).
If there’s a silver lining for the Bucks, it’s that they went 12-4 after a loss in the regular season, winning those 12 games by an average of 14.2 points.
They were coming off a 116-105 loss at Boston when they traveled to Orlando in November. Milwaukee rebounded to win that game 123-91.
–Field Level Media