Despite building a 16-point lead early in the second quarter, the Magic collapsed defensively and eventually fell to the Milwaukee Bucks, 107-100. Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 18 points thanks to his 10-11 night from the free throw line, and Vucavic added 16 points, but on only 7-19 shooting. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Milwaukee on a barrage of dunks and drives throughout the night to the tune of 25 points. Khris Middleton also scored 25 on the night, including 11-11 from the stripe.
The first quarter was a solid balance of offense and defense for the Magic, driven on both ends by their effort and energy early on. Two early possessions in particular featured great ball movement and produced open 3-point makes for both Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon, the latter making his third start in a row this season. Oladipo was active with his passing in the quarter, assisting on four baskets before subbing out for Fournier. Harris, who always plays well against his former team, led the Magic with 8 points in the quarter. Milwaukee struggled to create many open looks, aside from a couple successful backdoor plays, but Antetokounmpo was a force driving the ball to the basket. The Magic led 30-23 after one.
Milwaukee made a short run to start the second quarter, when it looked like they might take control of the game back from the Magic, but Orlando quickly responded with a 7-0 run of their own to push the lead to 10. The Magic's hot shooting from outside pushed the lead all the way to 16, after long range makes by Oladipo, Fournier, and Frye. At one point in the game, they were a scorching 8-10 from downtown. The Bucks responded with a massive run, however, as the Magic gave up several easy looks on the interior. Milwaukee made 10 baskets in a row, nearly ending the half on that run if not for a difficult buzzer beating attempt by Antetokounmpo in the final seconds. Just like that, the lead vanished, and Orlando went into halftime clinging to a 56-53 lead.
The third quarter was a sloppy affair for Orlando, who seemed out of sorts. The torrid 3-point pace predictably trailed off, turnovers increased, and the excellent ball movement from the first half dried up. At the same time, they could not find an answer for Antetokounmpo, who burned them on drive after drive to the hoop. Milwaukee dominated inside, holding a 52-22 advantage in the paint after three quarters. It was largely thanks to Oladipo's free throw shooting that the Magic were able to keep the game close, as he drew fouls on an improbably 3 long range attempts to get 9 easy free throws throughout the night. Milwaukee led 82-78 with one quarter to go.
As the fourth quarter dragged on, it looked like the Magic wouldn't have the energy to compete with the Bucks, who looked to take control of the game for good. That's when the Magic found life in an unusual closing lineup. Starters Vucevic and Gordon remained in the game, but Skiles elected to keep Hezonja, Napier, and Fournier in the game. Mario Hezonja played his best basketball of the season, putting on a scoring display with multiple three pointers and drives, scoring almost all of his ___ points in the pivotal fourth quarter. His drive and kick also led to a key Fournier 3-pointer to tie the game. Perhaps more importantly, this lineup finally got the defense back on track, forcing several Bucks misses on tough jumpers, and crucially digging out those defensive rebounds that had escaped them in the third.
Unfortunately, the comeback was not to be, as the defense faltered in the final minutes. With about a minute to go the Magic forced a crucial miss by Middleton, but nobody boxed out Antetokounmpo who threw down yet another putback dunk. Oladipo, who came back in during the final minute, got a quick layup out of a nice timeout play, but Jarryd Bayless hit a corner 3 to put the Bucks up by 4 with 10 seconds remaining, forcing the Magic to foul and effectively ending the game.
Orlando travels to Boston on Friday.