The Magic second straight season in the playoffs ended much the same way their first one did.
Although against two very different teams, and under extremely different circumstances, the Magic won Game 1 in shocking fashion before dropping the next four.
There was one other notable difference.
Unlike last season, when the Magic showed no fight and were routed in Game 5 by the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors, this Orlando team fought until the very end, cutting a 21-point deficit to three in the fourth. They did so even though there was little chance of victory in the series, and even though they were probably eager to depart the NBA bubble and return to their loved ones after being so close and yet so far from home over the last few weeks.
Ultimately, an Orlando team that entered the season hoping to take the next step by having a more competitive first round series didn’t quite accomplish it, with the Bucks pulling away in the fourth to win Game 5 by a score of 118-104, ending the Magic’s season.
But for an extremely shorthanded team – one that even at full strength has clear flaws – the effort during much of their brief postseason cameo was something to be proud of.
Their season-ending loss in Game 5 simply came down to the same struggles that have loomed all series: no way to slow the Bucks and not enough offense to keep pace.
The Magic and Bucks took the court days after their originally scheduled Game 5 matchup following the Bucks’ boycott of the game in protest of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by police in their home state of Wisconsin. Their unprecedented movement sparked athlete protests and the postponement of games across multiple professional sports leagues, helping to shift focus and bring further awareness to social injustice.
When the game began on Saturday, the Magic quickly put themselves in an early hole by committing five turnovers in the opening five minutes and missing their first eight three-point attempts. The Magic’s first make from deep didn’t come until the second unit checked in and Wes Iwundu drained a corner three while getting fouled with 1:53 left in the quarter to cut what had been a Bucks’ 10-point lead in half.
The second-unit of Iwundu, Terrence Ross and Khem Birch helped the Magic keep in close, holding the Bucks without a field goal over the final 3:48 of the quarter.
Big play from the Big Maple.@Khem_Birch | #MagicPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/pszGERYqJZ— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) August 29, 2020
But the Magic shot just 36.4 percent in the first, and had six turnovers in the quarter, and trailed 26-21 going into the second.
After the Magic tied it on a three by Ross, Giannis Antetokounmpo had a three-point play to spark a 13-0 Bucks run. When Giannis checked out, the Magic orchestrated a 7-0 run, capped by a Nikola Vucevic three that cut the deficit to 44-38. Giannis was back in seconds later and the Bucks quickly became impossible to defend.
When Giannis is dominating the paint – as he did in the first half, converting eight of nine attempts in the paint while scoring 22 first-half points – and when the Bucks are knocking down their outside shots – as they did in the first half, hitting 11 of 24 attempts – there is simply no way to defend them.
That was the case over the final minutes of the half as a Bucks team that shot 52 percent from the field took a 67-50 lead into the break.
The Magic shot 35.4 percent in half, including 5 of 19 from three. Outside of Vucevic, who had 14 first-half points on 6-for-13 shooting, the Magic’s remaining four starters shot 4-for-19 for 14 points (22 bench points). That included the continued struggles of second-leading scorer Evan Fournier, who shot 1 of 6 in the half for seven points.
Evan Fournier’s combined first-half stats over five games this series:— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) August 29, 2020
The Bucks’ lead grew to 21 in the third.
The Magic, however, began to hit their threes in the third (5-for-10) and closed the quarter on a 10-1 run to cut the deficit to 90-79 going into the fourth. With Giannis collecting his fifth foul in the final minute of the third, hope remained.
The Magic continued knocking down shots. With Giannis a spectator, the Orlando run stretched to 24-7, capped by Fournier knocking down a huge three to make it a one-possession game at 96-93 with 7:38 remaining.
We're on a - run #MagicPlayoffs | #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/ui0SfNmgbt— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) August 29, 2020
Out of a Bucks’ timeout, the Magic allowed two offensive rebounds that gave the Bucks’ three looks from deep, with Marvin Williams knocking down the third attempt of the possession to push the lead to 99-93. It was the start of an 9-0 run for the Bucks that pushed the lead to 105-93 and put a bow on the 2019-2020 Orlando Magic season.
Giannis was limited to just six second-half points, finishing with 28 points on 11-for-17 shooting. Khris Middleton added 21 for the Bucks, which hit 16 threes and shot 45.5 percent overall.
Vucevic finished with 22 points 15 rebounds and five assists to lead the Magic, which shot 39.4 percent (15-for-41 from three, 36.6 percent). Fournier had his high-scoring game of the series with 18 points on 5 of 12 shooting, including 3-for-7 from deep. After a very quiet first half, Markelle Fultz finished with 15 points and five assists to complete was a successful comeback season. D.J. Augustin had 15 and Ross added 13 off the bench.
While the Bucks advance to play the Miami Heat in the second round, the Magic make the short drive home to begin what will mostly be a quiet offseason, barring trade or a highly-unlikely Evan Fournier opt-out.
Overall though, there were some positive takeaways from the Orlando Magic: Vucevic’s postseason dominance, Fultz’s successful “rookie” season, the early breakout of Jonathan Isaac before injury struck. We’ll dive into that and plenty of other topics now that the offseason is underway.
From all of us here at OPP, thanks as always to all of you for following along all season!