Many Milwaukee Bucks and NBA fans alike were expecting Milwaukee to win over an Orlando Magic team that was on a 5-game losing streak coming into tonight’s game.
But they didn’t.
The Bucks instead put up an embarrassing performance against the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, losing to the Magic 126-117.
Orlando improves to 21-48 overall while Milwaukee drops to 36-32, and are now back in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The beginning of the contest looked fine for the Bucks, gaining a 13-9 lead after the first media timeout.
The Magic then decided to pull out all the stops, answering with 13 consecutive points and closing the first quarter on 27-7 run.
Magic point guard D.J. Augustin, who was averaging just about nine points per game this season, had already dropped 16 points after the first quarter.
That is not a misprint.
Milwaukee would get back in it to start the second quarter thanks to finally using some energy on defense, thus closing the gap to a 48-45 deficit with under four minutes left in the half.
And then Milwaukee squandered all of that hard work and suddenly went back down nine points at halftime.
The difference maker in the first half was the Magic’s ability to knock down 3-pointers like there was no tomorrow, shooting 10/19 while the Bucks shot a frustrating 3/11 on triples.
While watching the game, I told myself, It’s the Magic. The Bucks will get back in it and win.
I was wrong.
Milwaukee actually took the lead back, 80-77, with just under four minutes to play in the third after Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe feeded center John Henson in the post for a wide-open dunk.
But the Magic went bonkers yet again closing the quarter on a 14-0 run that was sparked by a lot of wide-open shots.
Milwaukee would close Orlando’s lead 95-90 with 8:49 to go but Orlando guard Shelvin Mack answered with a 3-pointer.
The Magic proceeded with a 9-0 run and go up 104-90 with just under seven minutes remaining, all but diminishing any hope for a Bucks comeback against a team they should have probably beat.
It seemed like almost every time the Bucks would get back in it or take the lead, the Magic would answer with a wide-open 3-pointer.
Milwaukee flat out just gave no energy defending the 3-point line.
Give the Magic credit, though. Some teams who get that many open looks miss a lot of the time, but not tonight at least.
Orlando shot 18/34 (52.9 percent) on triples, or maybe Milwaukee allowed Orlando to shoot that well on threes. Either way, that’s incredible.
Augustin and small forward Jonathan Simmons played great, scoring 32 and 35 points each, respectively.
Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo ended up playing 40 minutes and finished with 38 points and 10 rebounds against a statistically bad team.
In games like these, playoff-caliber teams should try their best to preserve their superstar’s energy for bigger games, but the Bucks apparently thought otherwise.
If you are a Bucks fan, I would be worried about a team that while it still has a good chance to make the playoffs, might not get very far yet again if they keep playing the way they have over the last few weeks.
The bottom line is that tonight’s game was a confidence-builder for the Magic and a concerning loss for the Bucks.
Milwaukee will next take on the Atlanta Hawks on St. Patrick’s Day at 5 p.m. in Milwaukee, while the Magic might as well celebrate their win with a trip to Walt Disney World.