The Bucks (30-24) lost for just the second time in nine games since Joe Prunty replaced the fired Jason Kidd after a 91-85 setback to Miami on Friday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 points and 11 rebounds, but Milwaukee could not overcome being outscored 30-8 in the third quarter as they came as close as three points in the final minute after trailing by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter.
Antetokounmpo missed 11 of his first 14 shots before finishing eight of 21. The All-Star forward has averaged 25.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists in eight games following the coaching change. But the biggest impact has been defensively, as the Bucks have given up an average of 95.4 points under Prunty, well below their season mark of 104.3 per game.
Orlando (18-36) are seeking a season-high fourth straight victory after edging Atlanta 100-98 on Thursday night. Evan Fournier scored 22 points and new starting point guard D. J. Augustin added 18 and nine assists for the Magic, who dealt Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns for a 2018 second-round pick before Thursday’s trade deadline.
Augustin, who went five of 14 from the field and did not commit a turnover, logged a season-high 35 minutes in his eighth start of the season. Orlando are 6-2 when he is in the first unit, and Augustin has averaged 8.6 points and 5.5 assists while committing just seven turnovers in almost 206 minutes.
Three keys to the game
The Magic in not creating turnovers - In Augustin and backup Shelvin Mack, coach Frank Vogel has two point guards who do not cough up the ball often. Augustin has a 2.38 assist-to-turnover ratio, while Mack has an NBA-best 4.38 mark. The issue is whether either or both can generate enough scoring offense. Augustin, who averages 8.8 points, is a 40.1 percent shooter from 3-point range, but Mack has connected on just 28.0 percent of those shots.
Milwaukee's 3-point woes - After a three-game stretch in which the Bucks shot 45.6 percent (36 for 79) from 3-point range, they have regressed to 29.7 percent (35 for 118) over the last five games after making six of 20 at Miami. Starting guard Tony Snell has been the focal point of those struggles, going two for 13 in that five-game stretch and has missed all nine of his shots spanning the last three contests.
Filling the minutes in the Bucks backcourt - With both Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova sidelined for at least the next three weeks, and Brogdon longer, Prunty has 50 minutes of playing time to dole out among rookie Sterling Brown, ageless veteran Jason Terry and Sean Kilpatrick off the bench. Terry was the only effective one Friday night, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in three attempts.
Matchup to watch
PF Giannis Antetokounmpo vs PF Mario Hezonja - With Magic forward Aaron Gordon missing his seventh straight game due to a strained left hip flexor, Hezonja gets the unenviable task of trying to slow down the Greek Freak as he looks to regroup from a sub-par outing in Miami.
Friday's loss marked the fifth time this season Antetokounmpo has shot under 40 percent when taking at least ten shots, and he has averaged 25.3 points in the following game on the previous four occasions.
Hezonja had a season high-tying streak of five games in double figures end with an eight-point, ten-rebound performance against Atlanta, and he held his own in Orlando's 110-103 loss at Milwaukee last month, finishing with 13 points while making six of ten shots.
Milwaukee Bucks projected starting lineup
PG - Eric Bledsoe | SG - Tony Snell | C - John Henson | SF - Khris Middleton | PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo
Orlando Magic projected starting lineup
PG - D. J. Augustin | SG - Evan Fournier | C - Bismack Biyombo | SF - Jonathan Simmons | PF - Mario Hezonja
Antetokounmpo had 26 points and seven rebounds in last month's win, making ten of 15 shots. Oddly, he has more triple-doubles (two) than double-doubles (one) in 16 career games against the Magic, averaging 14.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 53.4 percent.
Middleton chipped in 22 points in last month's victory and has a decent track record against Orlando, averaging 18.4 points and 4.1 assists in 12 lifetime matchups, shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range and 51.6 percent overall.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe has averaged 16.0 points and 6.0 assists in his last seven games against the Magic after totaling 15 points and four assists in the win in January.
Fournier paced the Magic in their loss to the Bucks with 21 points, extending his streak of games in double figures against them to nine. He has scored 16.8 points per game during that run, shooting 35.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Bucks have been established as five-point favorites as they try to cover for just the fourth time in their last 12 visits to Orlando. Milwaukee are 5-1 against the spread in their last six versus conference rivals and 5-2 against the number in their last seven games overall but are just 2-6-1 against the spread in their last nine matchups with Southeast Division teams.
Milwaukee have also covered in four of their last five games when playing on the back end of consecutive nights.
Orlando have been good value for bettors of late, covering in six of their last seven overall, nine of their last 10 against conference foes and in six straight outings against Central Division teams.
The over/under has been set at 207 points, and the under appears to be the stronger play. It has hit the last five times the Bucks have played on the back end of consecutive nights as well in the last four times they have played on the road. The under also has a six-game run when Milwaukee plays conference rivals and has hit in four of their last five matchups with Southeast Division teams.
The under has also hit five times in Orlando's last six home games while posting a 5-2 mark in the last seven for the Magic against both conference rivals and Central Division opponents.
Even with the Magic playing their best basketball of the season, this is the kind of the game the Bucks need to win to show they are serious contenders in the Eastern Conference. Mature teams find ways to split tough road trips and superstars find ways to carry their teams on off nights offensively.
Milwaukee need Antetokounmpo to be their bell cow, especially with the mismatch he has against Hezonja and potentially Jonathon Simmons as the Magic are now using a smaller lineup. It wouldn't be surprising if Vogel tried using Bismack Biyombo on Antetokounmpo just to show him a different look, but that could also backfire spectacularly if the Bucks move the ball quickly and attack the basket with Antetokounmpo at the top of the key.
Look for Milwaukee to bounce back emphatically and leave Florida with a split after a 109-93 victory.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin and Fox Sports Florida. Tip-off time is 7 pm EST.
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