The Orlando Magic's winning streak ended at six games this evening against the Milwaukee Bucks, with Orlando simply having no answer for center Andrew Bogut on the interior in its 96-85 defeat. Bogut tallied season-highs with 31 points on 13-of-20 shooting to go with 18 boards, having his way with the Magic's center combination of Marcin Gortat and Malik Allen. Brandon Jennings added 27 points for the Bucks, whose defense excelled in forcing the Magic to take contested, low-percentage shots throughout the game. Vince Carter missed 14 of his 21 shots on his way to scoring a team-best 20 points for Orlando, which simply didn't have enough firepower to compensate for the loss of four rotation players on the second night of a back-to-back set against a stout defensive team.
There's no way around it: Milwaukee established Bogut inside against Gortat early, and he quickly demonstrated that Gortat couldn't hope to defend him or keep him off the glass. He made six of his first 7 shot attempts and punished Orlando for daring to single-cover him. The Magic aren't really equipped to send double-teams to the low post. They rarely double anyone, but when they do, it's high-volume perimeter scoring threats late in games. So in the first quarter, against a center who's making hay with a variety of post moves? How's that supposed to work?
The Magic fought their way back with a late three-point spurt by Jason Williams and Quentin Richardson, in combination with a sound strategy to intentionally foul Bogut away from the ball. Down 9 with just over 3 minutes to play, coach Stan Van Gundy put in the order to foul the veteran center. At the two-minute mark, when the window to foul away from the ball closed--subsequent away-from-the-ball fouls result in two free throws plus possession--Orlando managed to trim the deficit to 6 points. Given how they struggled to defend and score all night, it was probably the right call from Van Gundy. But Orlando couldn't put points on the board the rest of the way, only managing a by-the-way layup from Gortat off a solid Carter dump-off pass in the final minute. When Carter missed a three-pointer curling off a screen on the left wing, at the 1:13 mark, the game was essentially over. Milwaukee had possession and a six-point lead.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
I don't think you can fault how the Magic played tonight, exactly. The Bucks, clearly desperate for a win after losing seven of their last eight games, defended like champions for most of the night. The fact that Orlando had only one shot-creator helped that cause, obviously, but Milwaukee didn't let the Magic get anything easy. Even the jumpers didn't really come within the flow of the offense. I credit Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for making life tough on Carter, but really, the whole Bucks team deserves kudos for sound rotations.
I do take issue with Carter's tunnel vision on his trips to the basket, though. Six assists, sure, but neither he nor anyone else on the team ever really thought to involve Gortat, one of the league's more mobile and sure-handed roll men. Just four shot attempts in 34 minutes for the big fella.
Interesting to note Van Gundy pulled Chris Duhon, who started at point guard tonight, in favor of normal third-stringer Williams at the 4:22 mark in the final period. Duhon had just missed badly on a long two-point attempt with the shot-clock expiring and failed to get the Magic into any sort of rhythm on that possession. It's probably nothing within the context of an 82-game season, but it does show that Van Gundy had more confidence in Williams than in Duhon to lead the Magic's comeback effort.
On the whole, I think it's fair to say that the Magic played like the tired, shorthanded team they are tonight. That doesn't excuse some of their poor decision-making and iffy defense, particularly in the first quarter, and it's entirely possible the Bucks would have taken this game even if Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Mickael Pietrus, and J.J. Redick had suited up. This result, I believe, says far more about the Bucks than it does Orlando.