Concluding their five-game road trip that started on the West Coast and finished in the Midwest, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 93-89 in overtime. The game could have ended in regulation, as the Magic were up by three points with 6.1 seconds left. Typically, this is a gray area when it comes to figuring out if it’s a good idea to foul up three, with the sole purpose of preventing a chance for the opposing team to tie with a three-pointer. In this case, Orlando played out that scenario. The Bucks inbounded the basketball and Jameer Nelson frantically tried to foul Brandon Jennings before he could shoot. Jennings realized this and eluded Nelson, giving himself enough space and time to put up a shot behind the three-point line. As Jennings attempted the three, Nelson finally drew contact and was whistled for a foul. Poor execution by Nelson. Jennings did his job, made all three free-throws, and sent the game into an extra period before the Magic were able to walk away with a victory. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard finished with 31 points, 22 rebounds, two steals, and three blocks — his fifth 20-20 game of the regular season. Hedo Turkoglu contributed with 19 points, while Jason Richardson had 13 points and Nelson had 10 points.
The Magic did whatever they wanted in the first half, running post ups for Howard, pick and rolls for a variety of players, and getting out in transition for three-pointers as well as easy baskets. Given that Milwaukee was missing Andrew Bogut due to a migraine, Larry Sanders, John Brockman, and Earl Barron were forced to deal with Howard. None of them had much luck, as Howard did as he pleased offensively and didn’t score more only because he missed 11 free-throws.
The problem for Orlando, aside from the fact that they were dealing with a stingy defense despite Bogut’s absence, was that their perimeter attack didn’t make much of an impact. Sure, Turkoglu, Richardson, and Nelson scored but none of them were efficient doing so and they didn’t score a lot of points cumulatively. A lack of aggression, particularly from Turkoglu and Nelson, continues to be a problem, even if it’s worth pointing out that the Magic’s energy level was low as it became clear that they were dragging with the road trip nearing its conclusion. For the Magic to be successful, Turkoglu and Nelson have to be more aggressive, especially in pick and roll situations where they’re able to create not only for themselves but for their teammates also. Against the Bucks, Turkoglu and Nelson got theirs but they barely got others involved. Turkoglu and Nelson need to realize that they are the key to Orlando’s success in the playoffs. Performances like the ones they had against Milwaukee aren’t good enough.
Anyways, after trailing by double-digits for most of the first and second quarters, the Bucks were able to get back into the game in the third quarter thanks in large part to John Salmons. Quiet in the first half, Salmons exploded for 16 points in the period and was able to get into a groove around the perimeter. As a result, Milwaukee took the lead heading into the fourth quarter.
From there, it was a defensive slugfest. The Magic and Bucks struggled to score on each other and mercilessly played until a victor was declared.
It’s worth noting that Ryan Anderson, not Brandon Bass, finished the game for Orlando alongside the starters. For the most part, that decision by head coach Stan Van Gundy paid off, as Anderson was able to make savvy plays. Tipping the offensive rebound to Howard for a dunk off a missed shot, drawing a charge, making an excellent entry pass to Howard for another dunk, and more. Anderson wasn’t perfect by any means, missing a free-throw late in the fourth quarter that could have prevented the Magic from dealing with overtime, but he did the little things well.
With the win, Orlando clinches a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
One more thing about Van Gundy’s decision to foul up three. There’s usually nothing wrong with the choice, given the time and score were apt for the strategy to be executed, but given that Salmons was the lone three-point threat for the Bucks that shoots a good percentage (38.3 percent) at a decent amount of volume (3.1 attempts per game), Van Gundy may have been better served just playing the percentages.
It’s easy to point out in retrospect, but worth mentioning anyway.