Orlando Magic vs Milwaukee Bucks: Lineups, preview & prediction 4/9/18
The Bucks are still battling for playoff seeding in the East, which makes their game against the Magic a must-win situation.
After suffering a heavy 137-100 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, the Orlando Magic (24-56) fell to their second consecutive defeat, 112-101, at the hands of the Toronto Raptors. Aaron Gordon returned after sitting out the Hornets game to score a team-high 16 points while Mario Hezonja added 14. However, the Magic didn’t receive enough firepower from other members of the team, and they also couldn’t contain the superior Raptors offense.
They will look to do a better job of doing so against the Milwaukee Bucks (43-37), who picked up an important 115-102 win over the New York Knicks. With superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo missing out due to an ankle injury, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe both stepped up with 22 points apiece. Meanwhile, Jabari Parker added 16 points, 12 boards, and five assists in 38 minutes.
Three keys to the game
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s availability – Obviously, Giannis is a huge part of the Bucks’ team, and despite their win over the Knicks, they would prefer to have him back in the lineup. Giannis has had an absolute field day facing the Magic this season, averaging 32 points per game on 59 percent shooting in three games against them. With the Bucks still in with a chance to snatch the sixth seed in the East, don’t be surprised if Giannis gives it a go.
Khris Middleton – But if the Bucks have to play without Antetokounmpo again, Middleton will have to help shoulder the load on offense. After a down month in February, Middleton has picked up his game in March and April. He’s also capitalized on the Magic’s shaky perimeter defense, lighting them up for almost 22 points on 58 percent shooting, with six rebounds and five assists per game.
Magic defense – The Magic won their most recent matchup against the Bucks, but it needed an unsustainable 126-point outburst on offense to do so. That’s unlikely to occur again, so they must ratchet up their defense to keep the Bucks at bay. Before their two most recent loss, the Magic had been playing pretty solid defense of late. They’re ninth in the league in defensive efficiency over the last ten games.
Matchup to watch
Aaron Gordon vs Giannis Antetokounmpo – It’s always fun to see two of the most athletic players in the league going head-to-head, and Gordon and Giannis are definitely in that class. Gordon doesn’t have much left to play for this season, but he should still welcome the challenge of squaring off against the Greek Freak if he decides to suit up.
Magic projected starting lineup
PG – DJ Augustin | SG – Wesley Iwundu | SF – Mario Hezonja | PF – Aaron Gordon | C – Nikola Vucevic
Bucks projected starting lineup
PG – Eric Bledsoe | SG – Tony Snell | SF – Khris Middleton| PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo | C – John Henson
Magic point guard DJ Augustin can be a bit boom-or-bust, but when he’s good, he’s outstanding. He was exactly that the last time he faced the Bucks when he exploded for a season-high 32 points. Although, it should be noted that the Magic played no one over 30 minutes against the Raptors, which is a sign that no one on the team could be a highly reliable fantasy option.
As for the Bucks, Giannis and Middleton have lit up the Magic for big games this season and should be in consideration for any fantasy team. However, Eric Bledsoe is equally deserving of consideration given how well he’s been playing recently. The veteran point guard is averaging 25.6 points, 6.4 assists, and 2.0 steals over his last five games.
With or without the Greek Freak, this game should be the Bucks’ to lose. They’re at home and will face a Magic team that’s packed it in for the year. They will be in the playoffs in a couple of days and need to be at their sharpest, so beating the Magic is imperative.
The Greek Freak suits up and he helps the Bucks beat up on the sorry Magic, 116-102.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Wisconsin and Fox Sports Florida. Tip-off is at 8:00 pm Eastern.