After suffering a shocking blow in Game 1, the Milwaukee Bucks responded in dominant fashion in Game 2, holding the Magic to just 96 points on 34 percent shooting from the field, 21 percent from three.
This was in stark contrast to Game 1, in which the Magic were able to get much of what they wanted from the perimeter, converting 16 of their three-pointers (39 percent). The physicality the Bucks brought in the second bout was apparent, and the Magic were forced to fight for every basket. Nikola Vucevic was impressive again with 32 points and 10 rebounds but several role players came crashing back down to earth. Wesley Iwundu, Gary Clark, DJ Augustin and Terrence Ross converted just five of their 30 baskets in Game 2. Clark and Ennis combined for just 11 points on 14 shots after collecting 26 points on 17 shots in game 1. Evan Fournier has combined to score just 21 points on 21 shots in 71 minutes with just four trips to the stripe.
As one benefit of the Bucks increased intensity, the Magic lived at the foul line for much of the contest and hit them with regularity, converting 27 of 32 shots (87 percent). The Bucks appeared willing to afford those gimmes in exchange for making life harder for the Magic in the paint and across the perimeter.
So, how can the Magic adjust in Game 3? Converting a better percentage of their attempts is to be expected. The Bucks raced out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter by holding the Magic to just 13 points. They expanded that lead to 23 points while holding the Magic to just 22 points through the first 17:57 of the game. That cannot happen again.
The paint must become a talking point for Clifford and company. Allowing 24 points in the paint in Game 2 (14 fewer than Game 1) is simply unacceptable. Navigating their way around the best defensive frontcourt is a considerable challenge, but the Magic must do better than just 12 made baskets in the trenches.
The Magic can also dial in their intensity levels early. They may have gotten the jump in Game 1 but the Bucks brought newfound vigor and should do so again. While the offensive side of the floor gets the most and deserved attention, the Magic were uncharacteristically out of position in transition in Game 2. Missed assignments, failed rotations and an overall lack of physicality isn’t something generally associated with the Magic. Brook Lopez got lost behind the defense and in the corner on several occasions, leading to 20 points on 12 shots. That, was in stark contrast to his five-point performance in Game 1.
The fight just didn’t carry over.
The Magic may get a boost on Saturday from Aaron Gordon, who is questionable to return. If he is able, the Magic may want to consider bringing him off the bench in Game 3, assuming Wes Iwundu’s minutes with the second unit in addition to some of Clark and Ennis. After having missed over two weeks with a troubled hamstring, throwing him against Giannis in his first minutes back could be a crippling mistake, one the Magic cannot afford.
Regardless of his availability or how he will be utilized after missing time, the fact remains that the Bucks are the deeper and more skilled team. If they are dialed in and clicking on all cylinders, the Magic have little opportunity. However, another shooting performance like game 1 in addition to sharpen senses on the defensive end could create a little drama.