The Orlando Magic put in a strong bid to end their 12-game road losing streak Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but a clutch three-pointer by rookie point guard Nate Wolters with 29 seconds to go put Orlando behind for good. The Bucks went on to win by a 104-100 final, ending their four-game losing skid.
Caron Butler scored 18 of his game-high-tying 21 points in the first half to spark Milwaukee's offense, while Brandon Knight scored 12 of his 18 points at the foul line. John Henson came off the bench to provide 18 points and 10 rebounds, including six caroms at the offensive end.
Orlando's Arron Afflalo scored 21 points for Orlando, but his game-tying three-point try with nine seconds to play fell well short. Nik Vučević tallied 19 points and nine rebounds, and Tobias Harris contributed 16 points and nine rebounds against his former club.
Orlando opened the game by featuring Afflalo and Vučević. The two teams remained evenly matched until Butler checked in and gave the hosts the advantage: within 90 seconds of checking into the game, he'd drilled consecutive three-pointers to give the Bucks a six-point edge. Orlando closed to within three points by the end of the first quarter.
The Magic's second unit generally gives the team a spark of energy, particularly on the defensive end, but that dynamic didn't play out in Milwaukee: the Bucks leveraged the team's aggressive rotations against it to create easy ball reversals, and Orlando struggled to contain the Bucks' dribble-penetration. As a result, the Bucks managed to create easy looks despite not having a top-flight shot creator. Milwaukee augmented its outside shooting with a strong showing on the offensive glass, getting seven offensive rebounds in 22 first-half opportunities. Butler's fourth triple of the first half gave Milwaukee its first double-digit lead of the night.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn reloaded with four starters after that Butler basket, and though the Bucks pushed their lead to 14, Orlando's starter-heavy crew pulled it to within six points at halftime. Jameer Nelson dished three assists and scored four points during that run.
In the third quarter, Orlando kicked its offense into gear by hitting the offensive glass and limiting turnovers. Playing more soundly enabled Orlando to close the gap on Milwaukee, even taking a one-point lead on three separate occasions. The Bucks scored six straight points--including two on a dribble-handoff action featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo and Henson, possibly the longest frontcourt duo in the league--to take a five-point lead with 2:46 to play in the period, but E'Twaun Moore kept Orlando afloat by scoring seven straight points for his team to close the third, bringing it to within two.
The two evenly matched teams scrapped throughout the fourth quarter, but Milwaukee could never quite close on the Magic. It's best opportunity to do so came when Antetokounmpo keyed a 5-0 scoring run with a three-pointer and then an assist to Wolters, putting the Bucks up five with 4:40 to play, but Afflalo answered with a three-pointer to keep Orlando within a possession of the lead.
Vučević's mid-range two off a Nelson assist gave the Magic a one-point lead with 50 seconds to go, but Wolters responded with a deep three-pointer off the dribble late in the shot clock--just his eighth trey of the season--to vault Milwaukee into the lead for good. Afflalo then made a costly turnover, losing the handle while trying to spin past Antetokounmpo. The 19-year-old rookie came up with the steal and split a pair of free throws.
After a timeout, a Vučević screen freed Afflalo for a wide-open triple, but his shot came up well short. A subsequent triple by Nelson brought the Magic to within two points, but Orlando had neither the time nor the timeouts necessary to complete the comeback.