The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 78-72, putting themselves in position to win their 50th game of the regular season when they play again on Wednesday. Also, the victory ensures that the Magic will be facing off against the Atlanta Hawks at the No. 4 seed, meaning they’ll have home-court advantage for the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard had a quiet night for his standards, finishing with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and three steals while simultaneously shutting down Andrew Bogut to two points. Jameer Nelson had 17 points and five steals. Brandon Bass finished with 13 points. Hedo Turkoglu notched a double-double, putting up 12 points and 10 rebounds. Gilbert Arenas and Chris Duhon were able to make their respective returns to head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s rotation, though their collective impacts were minimal. For those that witnessed the championship game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Monday, this game was not much better when it came to two teams scoring points. The Bucks have the worst unit offensively in the NBA, thus it’s no surprise that they were held to 72 points.
As for the Magic, despite having an offense that ranks at the league average in offensive efficiency, they were just as bad — 78 points on 38.8 percent shooting from the field and .095 percent from the three-point line. Add the 21 turnovers for Orlando and you have a poorly played game. There’s one reason and one reason only that the Magic were able to win after squandering a 16-point lead in the first quarter.
Milwaukee, despite making a game of it in the second half, were awful on offense. None of the starters for the Bucks finished the evening in double-figures, which says something about their ineptitude offensively. However, it also does speak to Orlando’s effort on defense, which was good but not great because they didn’t need to be. Milwaukee did the rest after the Magic put forth an honest effort defensively most of the time. The Bucks didn’t take care of the basketball and didn’t shoot very well from the perimeter, and that formula is usually going to turn into losses.
This game exemplified everything that’s boring about the end of the regular season in the NBA. With two teams having nothing to play for, they simply stepped onto the court, performed without putting forth maximum effort, and went home.
With four games remaining before the playoffs begin, the goal for Orlando should be to get healthy. It remains to be seen when J.J. Redick will return from his abdominal injury, but the Magic can’t afford to lose anyone else to injuries or illnesses before facing off against the Hawks.
Expect Van Gundy to limit the limit the minutes of the starters, while — ideally — granting more playing time to players like Earl Clark that could use it.