Bucks 105, Magic 98: Orlando stumbles in Milwaukee after building 18-point advantage

Victor Oladipo and Brandon Knight - Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Knight scored 24 to help the Bucks split the season series.

The Orlando Magic squandered an 18-point lead Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks, falling by a 105-98 final to finishing with a 2-2 split the season series. The loss is Orlando's third straight.

Brandon Knight scored 24 points to lead all players, blistering the Magic with his speed in getting to the rim. Khris Middleton drilled three of his five three-pointers in the final quarter to help put Orlando away, finishing with 21 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in a strong overall effort. Ersan Ilyasova contributed a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double to help the home team.

Maurice Harkless' 17 points led seven Orlando players in double-figures. After a two-game absence, Victor Oladipo scored 12 off Orlando's bench on 5-of-6 shooting. Tobias Harris scored 11 against his former club, but laid a goose egg in the second half.

The Magic shot 51.2 percent for 51 first-half points, but converted on 44.4 percent of their shots after intermission, with 10 turnovers, as the Bucks took command.

Harris came off the bench against his former club and quickly helped Orlando create some separation. He scored 11 of the Magic's 13 points in a 13-0 scoring run to give Orlando a 31-13 edge at the 10:47 mark of the second period. The Magic tallied assists on 10 of their 11 first-quarter baskets, keeping the Bucks scrambling with good ball movement and execution. Harris added spice to the proceedings with his speed in the open floor.

Orlando played without a true center for the entire second quarter, sliding Andrew Nicholson, a natural power forward, to that spot. Though it's unfair to pin on Nicholson all of Orlando's defensive shortcomings in the second, it bears noting that the Bucks shot 9-of-12 in the painted area against an Orlando defense without a shot-blocking presence. The Magic struggled to account for the speed of Knight, who tallied 10 points in quarter. Milwaukee closed to within six points at halftime as Orlando clung to a 51-45 edge.

Orlando scored the first seven points of the second half, but the balanced Bucks locked down defensively from there, yielding just 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting for the balance of the period. The Magic played at a scattered pace and Milwaukee, for the most part, limited the visitors' ball movement, forcing them to play more one-on-one. Orlando also committed three offensive fouls which nullified good scoring opportunities for Nik Vučević and Arron Afflalo, compounding its frustration.

Knight erupted in the fourth to stake his club to a 77-71 lead, scoring nine points in 90 seconds, including an emphatic fast-break slam and a deep three-pointer. Moments later, Middleton sank his third three-pointer of the game to put Milwaukee up by seven, its largest lead of the night to that point.

A Vučević jumper at the 4:49 mark brought Orlando to within six points, keeping its comeback hopes alive. The Bucks countered with an 8-0 run to seemingly put the game away, with a Giannis Antetokounmpo three-pointer punctuating the run.

The Magic took advantage of several Milwaukee mistakes in the final 90 seconds to keep the game close. Following a shot-clock violation, Jameer Nelson canned a three-pointer to bring the Magic within eight. He then picked Knight's pocket to ignite a fast-break chance which ended with Afflalo making a pair of foul shots.

Ilyasova free throws on Milwaukee's next trip, and Nelson answered with another three-pointer to cut the Bucks' lead to just three.

The Magic had a final chance to capitalize on a Bucks mistake after Knight fumbled a Vučević miss out of bounds with 26 seconds to play and Milwaukee up five. But Vučević committed an offensive foul trying to screen for Afflalo on the Magic's inbounds draw-up, their last-ditch effort to stay alive.

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