Behind a career-best performance from Arron Afflalo, the Orlando Magic rallied from a 19-point deficit against a shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks team on Wednesday. Afflalo scored 36 points and added eight rebounds, six assists, and two steals as Orlando prevaled, 94-91, to end its three-game losing streak.
A rash of injuries left Milwaukee with just eight players available on Wednesday, but they nonetheless looked like the sharper, better team early. The Bucks' unconventionally small starting lineup--with O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler, and Khris Middleton at the two, three, and four positions--gave Orlando's group fits with its speed, scoring 10 fastbreak points in the first quarter.
What the Magic lacked in speed they compensated for in strength, at least in theory, but the Bucks outrebounded them as well. Butler, Middleton, and Mayo combined for 28 first-quarter points on 11-of-19 shooting, badly outclassing the hosts and leading by as much as 15 points.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn experimented heavily in the first period, trying to find the right combination to counter the Bucks' small unit. 11 of the 12 Magic players in uniform on Wednesday--including Doron Lamb, who made his season début--logged time in the opening 12 minutes. The 12th, Ronnie Price, checked in during the second quarter.
A triple by Butler at the 7:44 mark of the second quarter gave the Bucks a 19-point lead and signalled that the rout may be on. And then a funny thing happened: the Bucks finally started missing some shots.
Following that Butler triple, Milwaukee shot 3-of-11 from the floor for seven points the rest of the quarter, with six turnovers to boot. As a result, the Magic were able to work themselves back into the game. Jameer Nelson scored six points and Nikola Vučević added five as the Magic pulled to withiin nine at halftime, with Maurice Harkless making the key play: with 2.5 seconds to go in the half, the second-year forward picked off a Mayo inbounds pass and went the length of the floor for a dunk.
Notably, Vaughn started the second half with Price in Orlando's lineup instead of Jason Maxiell, effectively making Harkless the power forward against the Bucks' small-ball group. Butler scored the first points of the third period with another three-pointer, but the Magic responded with three straight triples of his own to cut Milwaukee's lead to three in less than three minutes.
Afflalo wasn't finished. He matched a Magic record for threes in a quarter by sinking two more the rest of the way, the second of which baskets tied the score at 70, knotting the teams for the first time since the opening tip. Dribble penetration from Victor Oladipo set up each of Afflalo's two final triples.
Thanks to Afflalo's eruption--he finished the third with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting, all of the attempts coming from beyond the arc--the Magic ended the period trailing by just two. He played every second of the third quarter, so a key question for Orlando would be how it'd fare without him in the fourth.
The answer: okay. Orlando gained two points on the Bucks while Afflalo caught a breather for the first 3:39 of the fourth quarter. He then picked up promptly where he left off, drilling two more three-pointers--the first of which giving Orlando its first lead of the game--and sinking a driving layup to put Orlando up by five points with 5:41 to go.
Two consecutive buckets from Mayo brought Milwaukee to within a point, and they ultimately retook a one-point lead at the 2:47 mark off a John Henson layup.
The Magic went back to Afflalo, who else, to take them home. He drew fouls on the Magic's next two possessions and converted four foul shots to put Orlando up three points. Vucevic then blocked a Mayo layup attempt and Harkless corralled the rebound.
Vaughn called a timeout to set up a play, but with Middleton blanketing Afflalo, Jameer Nelson elected to shoot a deep three. It missed the mark and Milwaukee answered with a lob dunk for Henson to cut Orlando's lead to one.
Afflalo sealed the win on the two ensuing plays, dishing to Vucevic off an aggressive drive for a dunk with nine seconds left, and then stealing the ball from Mayo just before time expired.