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Bucks 121, Magic 99: Magic struggle in fourth as Bucks blow it open

Game was closer than it seems but the Magic dropped their third straight

Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

At least the jerseys looked good.

Truth is, for much of the first three quarters the Magic didn’t look so bad themselves. Aaron Gordon was playing like the good Aaron Gordon. The Bucks were missing most of their three-point attempts. Even Mo Bamba was showing flashes...

Orlando entered the fourth quarter trailing by only four, thanks in part to the Bucks hitting just seven of their first 24 shots from deep.

Gordon pulled the Magic within 88-86 with 9:42 remaining in the game on this posterization of Giannis Antetokounmpo (and ensuing snarl!)...

That would be the Magic’s final points for quite some time and their final highlight of the evening. They went stagnant on offense, shooting just 7 of 21 in the quarter, including 1-for-8 from three, and commit silly turnovers. Meanwhile, the Bucks, a team that entered with the league’s best offensive rating at 118.6 and the fifth best three-point shooting percentage at just over 40 percent, found their rhythm and capitalized.

Giannis responded to AG’s dunk with a three, Bobby Portis followed with another. Then came another, and another, and another, the last of which was hit by Bryn Forbes with 5:54remaining to cap a 22-2 run that gave the Bucks a 110-88 lead.

“The game was the first 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter where we had poor possessions on offense, lack of purpose, and fouling at the other end of the floor,” Steve Clifford told reporters after the game.

The Bucks hit 6 of 11 attempts from deep in the fourth, improving their overall percentage to 37.1 percent (13-for-35). It was an improvement for a Magic team that let the Mavs and Rockets each shoot over 50 percent from deep while combining to hit 42 threes in their previous two losses. But it wasn’t enough to prevent their losing streak from reaching three games, and dropping what was once a 6-2 record to 6-5.

Giannis, who played just 27 minutes after missing his previous game with back spasms, totaled 22 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Khris Middleton had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Bobby Portis added 20 points off the bench on 9-for-13 shooting. D.J. Augustin, in his return to Orlando, had 8 points and 4 assists.

The Magic shot 42.9% from the field, going 11-for-31 from deep (35.5%), a big improvement from three compared to their previous two games. That was led by Gordon, who hit 3 of 4 attempts from deep, and Nikola Vucevic, who went 4-for-10 from three, one shy of his career high for attempts. Oddly enough, Vucevic has shot at least 10 threes in a game just five times in his career, and four of those games were against Milwaukee (twice in the playoffs last season). The Bucks defense is predicated on stuffing the paint and daring teams to shoot them from outside, and Vooch was once again able to take advantage against the Bucks, scoring 28 points on 11-for-25 shooting, and adding 13 rebounds and five assists.

Gordon finished with 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting, with 8 assists and 5 rebounds, and helped contain Giannis. Cole Anthony added 12 points but shot just 4 of 13 from the field and had only one assist in 23 minutes. Bamba, in 11 minutes, had 8 points, 4 rebounds and one empathic block.

The Magic are slated to play the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday and Friday, but the Celtics have had their last two games postponed for health and safety protocol. So we’ll see if Wednesday’s game goes on as scheduled. Either way, even without Jayson Tatum, who is in quarantine, it won’t be an easy task for a Magic team who will be starting a six-game road trip.