Needing a win to take control of the series, Milwaukee rightfully turned to their MVP-candidate for leadership on the floor. He delivered in a big way.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 35 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Orlando Magic 121-107 Saturday afternoon at the Walt Disney World Wide World of Sports Complex.
Antetokounmpo made his first six attempts from the field in the contest. In fact, he only missed two shots the entire game (12 for 14 from the field, 2 for 3 from beyond the arc). All-Star forward Khris Middleton chipped-in with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.
“Like I told the guys - and we’ve been talking about this since the first day we knew we were going to play them - we’ve got to be able to compete,” Magic head coach Steve Clifford said after the game. “With a guy like (Giannis), who is the ultimate competitor, you’ve got be able to compete with him. Until tonight, I thought we’ve done a good job with that. Tonight, we were a step late.”
Milwaukee was able to get whatever they wanted in the paint against Orlando Saturday. The Bucks outscored the Magic 50-26 in the painted area, proving to be one of the significant differences in the game.
Orlando looked like they were fit for the task at hand towards the beginning of the game, getting inspired play once again from Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic opened the game with a three-point field goal from the top of the key. The 29 year-old center scored seven of Orlando’s first nine points of the contest.
A play early in the game that would prove to be a prelude for the way the rest of the afternoon would go came just four minutes into the contest. Middleton missed a pull-up jumper, but was able to get his own rebound. However, it appeared that Middleton was clearly standing out-of-bounds with the basketball. The referees missed the call, and the Magic missed an opportunity to secure the basketball after Middleton’s ensuing pass was deflected. The ball eventually found its way into the hands of Wesley Matthews, who buried a three-point field goal from the wing.
Matthews’ field goal was the beginning of a 15-3 run by the Bucks, a stretch that saw the Magic miss five of six attempts from the field while turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions.
Antetokounmpo in transition was deadly for the Bucks early (and often) Saturday afternoon. The Magic had managed to control Milwaukee's open-court opportunities through the first two games of the series, but the Bucks exploded for 16 fast break points in Game 3.
An 11-2 Milwaukee run helped push the Buck’s lead to fifteen points in the first quarter, but Orlando inched back in the game thanks to veteran guards D.J. Augustin and Terrence Ross. Augustin and Ross came off the bench to score a combined 20 points in the first half for the Magic (9 for 11 from the field).
The Magic, who were already playing without Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Michael Carter-Williams, and Mohamed Bamba, got even more short-handed following the ejection of James Ennis with 5:32 left in the first half. Ennis got tangled-up with Bucks forward Marvin Williams. Following a series of shoves back-and-forth, both players were ejected from the contest.
Milwaukee dominated the second quarter, outscoring Orlando 39-20 in the period. The Bucks carried a comfortable 27-point lead into halftime after shooting 64 percent from the field in the first half, and 56 percent from beyond the arc.
James Ennis and Marvin Williams got into it pic.twitter.com/mHdXwjzDky— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 22, 2020
The 70 points Orlando gave up in the first half were a playoff record for points scored by an opponent in any half in franchise history.
The Magic played much better offensively in the third quarter, but trading field goals back-and-forth with the Bucks for twelve minutes didn’t allow for Orlando to cut into the rather large deficit they found themselves in.
Ross continued to keep Orlando in the game, knocking-down three of his four three-point field goals in the period.
Orlando showed a lot of grit to begin the fourth quarter, charging out on a 15-3 run in the period. The Magic had the Bucks lead down to just twelve points, but that proved to be as close as Orlando would get in their comeback effort.
Orlando’s starting back-court of Markelle Fultz and Evan Fournier struggled mightily in Game 3. Fultz (5 points, 5 assists) turned the ball over five times and committed three fouls in 28 minutes (-19 +/-), and Fournier (13 points) committed three turnovers without recording an assist (-28 in 32 minutes).
“We definitely need to turn it up and match their intensity next game,” Augustin said during his post-game conference with the media. “That’s the great thing about the playoffs. We’re still not out of this. We have a chance to come back, get a win, and tie this (series) up. We know we need to adjust and (just) do a better job.”
Augustin led the Magic with 24 points (8-13 FGA’s, 4-8 3PTA’s) and 6 assists off the bench. Vucevic added 20 points and 5 rebounds.
“We’re going to have to get back to playing the way that we played (when we’ve played well this year),” Clifford said after the game. “Low turnovers, win the free throw game, win the rebounding game, and limit their fast break points.”
Easier said than done against the top team in the Eastern Conference, but the Magic will have another chance to do just that. Game 4 is slated for 1:30 PM EST Monday afternoon.