Following up their impressive game one performance against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Orlando Magic came crashing back down to earth.
Form the opening tip, the Magic didn’t look as sharp as they did in their surprising game one victory, and it showed as Milwaukee controlled the game seemingly all night. They led by as many as 23, and only trailed briefly once in the opening minutes.
Milwaukee’s shooting from beyond the arc was a big factor, as they knocked down 15 triples, including eight off their bench, which finished the night with 41 points. Brook Lopez also bounced back in a big way, finishing the night with 20 for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
The Magic’s struggles in the game are concerning, and could spell a quick end to their season if they aren’t able to turn them around in game three on Saturday.
Of the things that stuck out, these were the three biggest takeaways from Orlando’s 111-96 loss.
After shooting the ball extremely well in their game one victory, the Magic saw it all come crashing back down to earth on Thursday night.
From the start, shots that fell on Tuesday, and throughout the season, didn’t. Seemingly everything the Magic threw up clanked off the rim; it was like a cover was on the rim.
The Magic made just three of their 24 shots in the opening quarter, and just 11-of-45 for the opening half. The 24 percent shooting for the Magic was a franchise low for a half in a playoff game.
Some credit has to go to Milwaukee, who tightened things up on defense, hanging with Magic players whenever they ran any kind of action, and getting into shooters on what seemed like every shot. Their physicality threw the Magic off, but did allow the Magic to draw 16 fouls in the opening half, leading to 21 free throw attempts.
While the shooting woes didn’t last all night, the damage done in the first half was too much to overcome.
Overall, the Magic shot just 34.8 percent from the field, and 21 percent from beyond the arc. Shots did fall at a much higher clip in the second half, but their inability to hit open shots still hurt them some, especially late when they cut the Bucks lead down to as many as nine.
Simply put, the Magic need to hit more shots. I know it’s simple to write, but they won’t be able to stay in this series if they shoot the ball like they did Thursday night.
Just like the shooting, Orlando’s defense was nowhere near as crisp on Thursday night.
Milwaukee was able to get things going early thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s activity level. Giannis, who the Magic built a wall of sorts against on Tuesday, attacked early and often, not letting the Magic set their defense at all. His aggressiveness set the tone for the Bucks, who attacked all night, drawing the Magic defense in, and finding open shooters.
As shots continued to not fall in the first half for the Magic, their defense began to struggle more, allowing the Bucks to push their lead to a game-high 23. Seemingly nothing that the Magic threw at the Bucks worked, with Milwaukee finding a hole in the Magic defense.
Their aggressiveness on the boards hurt the Magic also, who struggled to keep the Bucks off the offensive glass. Milwaukee finished the game with 11 offensive rebounds on the night, leading to 17 second chance points.
In the second half, the Magic made the adjustment to bring hard double teams on Giannis whenever he would post up, and made strong first rotations, but struggled with the secondary rotation, leading to some open looks for Milwaukee. Those open looks were knocked down, and allowed the Bucks’ double digit lead to jump back up, even when the Magic would whittle it down.
Overall, the Magic defense had some good stretches, but was nowhere near as consistently good on Thursday night as it was on Tuesday. If the Magic want to stay in this series, they’re going to need to string things together on that end more to help keep them in games.
Once again the Magic were without the likes of Aaron Gordon and Michael Carter-Williams, who are working their way back from hamstring and foot injuries respectively. After it didn’t make a huge impact on Tuesday, it felt like the Magic desperately needed both of them on the court Thursday night.
Both Gordon and Carter-Williams bring toughness on defense, and play with a lot of energy. They both also bring forth things that the Magic seemed to miss on Thursday.
Gordon is a physical rebounder, who will go up and fight for boards with anyone. With Giannis continually attacking the glass and securing big rebounds, having someone like Gordon who would fight for those boards would’ve helped a lot and likely kept Milwaukee off the offensive glass some.
Add in Gordon’s ability to create some offense off the dribble, something almost no one else on the Magic roster can do, and his absence is felt even more.
Carter-Williams is seemingly always hustling and throwing his body around, winning 50/50 balls, and bringing huge energy whenever he’s on the floor. While he isn’t a major threat shooting the ball, he has periods where he gets to the rim and finishes at a high level, and when shots aren’t falling, being able to get some easy, clean looks can open things up for everyone else.
The hope is that Gordon will be able to return for game three on Saturday afternoon, and Carter-Williams is continuing to progress. If the Magic are able to get even just one of them back, it will liekly give the team a big boost on both ends of the floor.