Following a woeful shooting performance in their game two loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Orlando Magic once again struggled in an ugly game three.
Milwaukee controlled the game from the start, jumping out by as many as 11 in the opening quarter, and 28 in the first half. The Magic couldn’t get anything going, not even Nikola Vucevic, who finished the game with just 20 points on the afternoon.
The Magic did get some contributions from the likes of D.J. Augustin and Terrence Ross off the bench, but it was all for naught as the Magic never had a chance against the surging Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo picked apart the Magic from the start, and his teammates played off of him, absolutely controlling the Magic all afternoon. For the first time in the bubble, the Bucks looked like the dominant team that ran through the league to it’s best regular season record.
There wasn’t much positive for the Magic, which is highlighted in the games takeaways.
Milwaukee is just better
This is low hanging fruit, and not exactly hard hitting analysis, but the Bucks are just better than the Magic top to bottom.
Milwaukee truly imposed their will and picked apart the Magic from the opening tip. They were aggressive on both ends, and took the Magic out of anything and everything that they tried to do.
Giannis got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Khris Middleton finally found him rhythm and his shot after struggling in the opening two games. Milwaukee’s shooters found space and knocked down three pointers. They constantly beat the Magic, once again, to 50/50 balls, and never let the Magic get into any flow on their offensive end.
The Bucks dominated the Magic in game, two, but largely felt like that was due to the Magic’s inability to make shots. Saturday was a different kind of domination, as it felt like no matter what the Magic would do, or the adjustment that they could make, nothing was going to make a difference.
With the talent gap at the level it is at, the Magic have to play a seemingly perfect brand of basketball to hang with the Bucks. When the Bucks play close to a perfect game on their end, it becomes even more challenging for the Magic, and Saturday the top-seeded Bucks were darn near perfect.
Coach Steve Clifford has preached that his team needs to take care of the ball, and limit Milwaukee’s fast break points by getting back on defense. They did neither on Saturday.
The Magic were sloppy with the ball, turning it over left and right, leading to 18 turnovers, with Milwaukee scoring 25 points off of those miscues. Their inability to get into any rhythm on offense didn’t help them, but even when they were able to get into offensive sets, they were sloppy with the ball.
Players dribbled the ball off themselves, made high, uncatchable passes, and tried to force the ball into places where they couldn’t get it.
Thanks in large part to the sloppy play on the offensive end, the Bucks were able to get out in transition and get easy buckets. They set the tone early, scoring seven points in transition in the opening quarter, and 12 for the first half.
To their credit, the Magic did a better job in the second half of keeping the Bucks out of transition, holding them to just two fast break points in the second half.
If the Magic want to get back into the series in game four on Monday, they’re going to have to shore up their turnovers, as well as their ability to get back defensively in transition. Should they struggle in those areas again, they could be in for yet another blowout in game four.
Markelle Fultz’s struggles
Simply put, Markelle Fultz was terrible on Saturday.
Like many of his teammates, Fultz couldn’t find any sort of rhythm in game three. He struggled with his shot, making just two of his nine attempts — one of which came in the closing minutes with the game all but over — and finished with as many turnovers (five) as he had assists.
Eric Bledsoe has done a good job of making things tough on Fultz, and he did that even more on Saturday. His physicality has kept the Magic point guard from being able to get to his spots, and made him look all out of sorts.
Game three felt like the peak of Fultz’ struggles. who hasn’t played exceptionally well since getting into the bubble late.
Prior to the season’s sudden stoppage in March, Fultz was beginning to string together some strong performances, which gave hope that with the break, he could be healthy and energized to get going in the bubble. That simply hasn’t happened, and it’s hurt the Magic a lot.
Even if Fultz had played better on Saturday, I’m not sure it would’ve made that much of a difference because the Bucks were just that good. Still, the Magic need Fultz to turn things around, and quick, to find a way back into the series.