At 12-35 and with the league's second-worst record, the Orlando Magic don't often dictate the sorts of lineups its opponents can play. That dynamic will change Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the league's worst team, as coach Larry Drew elected to shuffle his starting five in order to match Orlando's style.
Drew said he will start Nate Wolters and Brandon Knight in a two-point guard backcourt. Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova, and LARRY SANDERS! will start up front, with rookie forward Giannis Antetokounmpo moving to the bench after 21 consecutive starts. John Henson, the team's usual starting center, is a late scratch due to a sore hand.
"I think in this building, I think it's important that we try to match up with them as much as we can, just to kind of be able to hopefully play the rhythm that we play at," Drew said. "We don't want to get into an up-and-down contest with this team, particularly with a bigger lineup."
Orlando's three-guard lineup of Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, and Arron Afflalo has Drew concerned, particularly with its ability to push the pace in transition. The Bucks play at the league's fifth-slowest pace, according to NBA.com/stats, so preventing Orlando's fast-break chances is a high priority for Drew.
Afflalo torched the Bucks for 36 points, including eight three-pointers, when these teams first met in November. Drew says Middleton will get the first call to defend Orlando's leading scorer.
"I vividly remember the last time we were here, we just kept losing him on the perimeter, and that really has nothing to do with the individual defense on him," Drew said. "It does but it doesn't. It's a matter of making sure of knowing where he is on the floor."
Tipoff between Orlando and Milwaukee is set for 7 PM Eastern on Fox Sports Florida. We'll know then if Drew's lineup gambit paid off.