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Milwaukee Bucks 104, Orlando Magic 96: Lineup shakeup leads to shaky defense

The Magic’s fourth consecutive loss leaves the team with a lot of questions as they prepare to go on the road.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

With Jeff Green out due to a back injury, and Frank Vogel looking to avoid another slow start, the Orlando Magic coach made some drastic changes to the starting lineup, bringing in Aaron Gordon for Green, but also switching Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic for D.J. Augustin and Bismack Biyombo. While the Magic were able to score at times throughout the night, the defense looked completely out of sorts, allowing the Bucks to break free for long balls and layups that Orlando had, as of late, been very good at preventing. Runs at the end of the first and fourth quarters proved to be the difference, as Orlando fell 104-96. Fournier led all scorers with 27 points on 11/21 shooting, while John Henson dominated the paint to get 20 points and 7 boards. Orlando shot just 41% on the night, including 25% from 3. Gordon shot 0-12 on the night.

The Magic got hot from long-range early on, with 3-pointers coming from Fournier, Augustin, and Ibaka. For the most part, the offense looked solid, with some rough shot selection in some places but good passing at others. The defense, on the other hand, struggled to contain Milwaukee, especially in the paint, where they scored ______ of their first-quarter points. A lot of that came down to communication issues with such a radically different starting lineup, much like how Orlando struggled early in the year guarding the rim. The teams played evenly for most of the quarter, but Milwaukee broke out thanks to more transition mistakes, particularly Elfrid Payton losing Malcolm Brogdon on the perimeter. The resulting 3-pointers gave Milwaukee the edge in the quarter, which they won 36-29.

The second quarter was frustrating in the sense that the Magic were able to make some offensive plays happen, but the Bucks were able to score in equal measure each time Orlando looked to put together a run. As such, the lead held steady between 6 and 10 points for most of the quarter. The shooting differential that has plagued the Magic this season continued in the first half on Sunday, in which Milwaukee shot 54.5% and the Magic hit just 42.6%. They were able to keep up thanks to their small advantage at the free throw line, where they went 8-11 compared to the Bucks’ 5-7. The big scorer of the first half for Orlando was Evan Fournier, who got lose for a couple 3-pointers and hit some tough shots, including an acrobatic floater moving toward the baseline late in the shot clock. Appropriately, the teams continued playing even basketball, aside from the end of the first quarter, and the Bucks went into halftime with a 58-52 advantage.

The third quarter was as up-and-down as the first two, with Orlando scrambling to make up for their mistakes and some tough matchups offensively and defensively. At times, Bismack Biyombo and Antetokounmpo covered each other on both ends, and while Biyombo could cover the versatile Buck in the paint, he was a challenge on the perimeter. Fournier continued to carry the Magic offensively, slashing into the paint to make layups against the long-armed Milwaukee interior. He added another 1 points in the quarter, and it was barely enough for Orlando to keep up with the Bucks, who maintained a 7-point lead, 79-72.

Once again, the Magic started to put together a small rally through the first half of a quarter, getting within 3 thanks to 7 consecutive points from Payton, on a corner 3, layup, and free throws. Matthew Dellavadova came right back with a long-range make of his own, but Vucevic nailed a three from the top of the arc. That felt like it might signal the Magic taking the lead soon, but the Bucks, as they had all night, hit two more jumpers to reassert a 6-point lead. The Bucks, in turn, looked like they might turn the game into a blowout as they ran out to a 9-point lead, but the Magic came right back again with two more buckets to keep the game right where it’d been the whole night.

Finally, Milwaukee found a way to pull away as Orlando looked out of energy late in the game. They finally pushed their lead to double digits, and with three minutes left Orlando was left with a big hole to climb out of. Fournier hit a quick layup, but Payton botched the next drive, turning the ball over to and subsequently fouling Tony Snell, who made 1 of 2 to get the lead back to 10. The Magic were only able to get as close as 8 the rest of the night.