After barely winning so many games that should have been blowouts, given the competition, it was refreshing to see the Magic competing hard with a team on a similar level as their own. Unfortunately, a massive flurry of first-half turnovers gave the Bucks just enough breathing room to stay competitive all the way to the end, and the Magic were unable to find a basket when they needed it most as they fell 93-89 in Milwaukee. Serge Ibaka led Orlando with 21 points, including 6-6 from the free throw line, and Elfrid Payton had an 8-9-7 line. For Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo had his first triple-double of the season with 21, 10, and 10, his last one also coming against the Magic in April. Jabari Parker hit a career high 5 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 22 points.
The Magic came out of the gates hot, dominating the quarter on both ends of the court. Jeff Green finally came to life after struggling so much with the starting unit, getting 8 points early on. Orlando led 20-8 after 7 minutes, but the Bucks found some offense and managed to keep the lead from extending any further. After trading blows for the latter part of the quarter, Orlando settled for a 27-20 lead.
The second quarter is when things truly went awry for Orlando as they could no longer make up for the numerous turnovers they committed. They had a whopping 19 giveaways in the first half, a stunning total in light of the Magic’s relatively good ball security throughout the season. Milwaukee’s players are known for their long wingspans, and those massive arms proved to be too much to handle as they continually poked the ball away. The Magic didn’t do themselves any favors either, throwing careless passes in traffic throughout the night. Without their hot shooting from the first quarter to sustain them, Orlando could only muster 17 points in the quarter, and the Bucks took a 49-44 lead into halftime.
The third quarter started much like the first, with Orlando quickly putting together a 7-0 run to get the lead, mainly behind Ibaka’s continued strong scoring. Milwaukee rallied back, however, thanks to long-range bombs from Parker, all from the same spot behind the arc. The rest of Milwaukee got hot from long range too: even as Orlando locked down the paint, the Bucks kept hitting every 3-pointer they tried, open or contested. Still, Orlando found a way to weather the storm and shut down the Bucks’ offense, in particular doing a great job of preventing those interior passes that plagued them earlier in the season. They got plenty of their own passes working, though, and that combination led to a 9-0 run to give the Magic the lead at the end of the quarter, 74-69.
Once again, the Bucks were ready to respond, as the Magic’s defense lapsed at times throughout the fourth quarter. The Bucks went on a 9-0 run to take their largest lead of the night, but Orlando came back with their own 9-0 run to tie the game. Turnovers continued to plague the team, however, as they lost multiple opportunities to score late thanks to those miscues. The game was close all the way to the very end, but after Ibaka hit 2 free throws to pull the Magic within 3 points, neither team could find a way to score. The status quo was finally broken when, late in the shot clock with just 17 seconds left in the game, Ibaka was called for a questionable foul on a Parker 3-point attempt. Parker only hit 1 of 3, but it was enough to stretch it to a two-possession lead. Orlando botched their ATO play with their 24th and final turnover of the night, putting the game out of reach.