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Magic 113, Bucks 102: Orlando easily dispatches league-worst Milwaukee

Arron Afflalo scored 21 points to lead the Magic past the bottom-dwelling Bucks.

Brandon Knight and Arron Afflalo
Brandon Knight and Arron Afflalo
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic snapped their three-game losing streak Friday by thumping the Milwaukee Bucks, 113-102, in a game whose outcome was never contested.

Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 21 points in his first game since learning he did not make the NBA All-Star team. Orlando's bench contributed 59 points of its own, with Tobias Harris' 18 points leading the reserves.

Caron Butler scored 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to pace the league-worst Bucks, who dropped to 8-38 with the defeat.

After the Bucks tied the score at 7 at the 8:32 mark, the Magic scored on eight straight possessions to take 1 21-11 lead. Notably, Orlando exploited the Bucks' being in the penalty by driving aggressively to the rim; it didn't settle for outside shots, a problem it's had at times in the second year of its rebuild. Afflalo, who erupted for 36 points the first time the Bucks visited the City Beautiful in the 2013/14 season, played particularly assertively in the post. The Magic also looked for him coming off flare screens and the seven-year veteran punished the Bucks, finishing the period with 14 points as Orlando took a commanding 35-20 lead.

Afflalo played brilliantly, without question, but his first-quarter performance overshadowed a strong effort from Nik Vučević in his first game at Amway Center since New Year's Eve: in eigh tminutes, the third-year center shot 2-of-3 from the floor for six points and two boards, not missing many beats in his second game back after missing three-plus weeks with a concussion.

Orlando extended its lead to as large as 22 in the second period and entered halftime with a 21-point edge thanks to a buzzer-beating, left-corner triple from Afflalo, his first trey of the game. After sitting out the entire first quarter, small forward Maurice Harkless played all of the second and offered great energy, contributing 10 points, a rebound, two assists, and two steals. Too often, Harkless plays passively, but he showed more aggression than usual against Milwaukee.

Orlando might have doubled-up the Bucks in the first half were it not for Milwaukee's finding the range from beyond the arc: the visitors went 4-of-4 from three-point range in the second quarter for 12 of their 26 points, with Ersan Ilyasova going perfect in his two attempts.

Doron Lamb started the second half in Jameer Nelson's place--Nelson left the game with a sore left knee--and made an immediate impact, beating the buzzer with a floater on the Magic's first possession and then deflecting a Bucks pass out of bounds at the 10:01 mark. He hit his next shot, a three-pointer off an Afflalo offensive board, shortly thereafter.

In his first minutes since January 15th, Ronnie Price came on in the third quarter in relief of Nelson and threw one of the more spectacular passes of Orlando's season, a one-handed bouncer on the fast break through four Bucks. Price threaded the needle just enough to hit Afflalo for a layup. That hoop gave the Magic a 25-point lead, their largest of the night, but the Bucks scored on three straight possessions--including back-to-back triples from Giannis Antetokounmpo--to trim it to 20 just more than a minute later.

Price made another spectacular play when he threw down a reverse dunk on a breakaway with 16 seconds to play in the third. That basket restored the Magic's lead to 24 and brought the Amway Center crowd to its feet. Despite his age (30) and stature (6-foot-2), the Utah Valley State product can still throw down with aplomb.

Butler, the veteran forward, attempted to lead the Bucks back in the fourth quarter, draining two threes to start the period and converting another four-point play minutes later to bring Milwaukee back to within 14. Understandably, given the 24-point margin to begin the period, Orlando had relaxed a bit, but Butler's four-point play seemed to wake it up: E'Twaun Moore answered with a floater in traffic, and then Harris added a three-point play on a drive to the basket to put Orlando back up by 19.

Orlando's second unit continued to score almost at will to put the game away. With more stops, Milwaukee might have been able to pull off the upset--it had 6:25 to erase a 15-point deficit, a difficult-but-not-impossible proposition--but the Bucks just couldn't keep the Magic from putting the ball in their basket. Only a 13-4 Milwaukee run in the final 3:42 made the score look even reasonably respectable.