The Orlando Magic were taken down by the Milwaukee Bucks 118-108 last night at Amway Center. It was the Magic’s third loss in a row.
The Bucks are one of the NBA’s best teams, with an NBA high winning percentage of 733% and winners of four straight and eight of their last ten games.
While Milwaukee arrived in Florida early and rested for three days near the theme parks, Orlando is coming into the second game of a back to back after a tough loss to Brooklyn on Friday night.
The Magic are three and seven in their last ten games and have been surprising at times this season, recently the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. The boys in blue have struggled lately, and with team leader Aaron Gordon down with a back injury, it was a tough order for them to face the NBA’s best.
The difference in the squads was evident from the start, with Milwaukee starting ahead and the Magic never really coming within a realistic striking distance for a win until the game was almost over. But the Bucks quickly took back control as the fading Magic struggled to finish strong.
Jonathan Isaac provided fire early in the game, going hard against Buck’s superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo’s early attempts. Issac was quickly slowed by two early fouls and provided a manageable game but had to hold back.
`Our offense helped us get back a little bit,’’ muttered Orlando guard Terrance Ross “but our defense kind of let us down.’’
Ah, defense. That has been the common denominator of the Magic’s recent woes: No getting key defensive stops.
`The thing that I just told the guys is that these last three games, we’re just not there defensively like we were before and we had made such good strides,’’ Clifford said. “We’ve got to get our defense going if we’re going to have a chance.’’
”It’s great to have a lot of options and be able to go in different directions,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. ”Eric was just great. He made some 3s, got to the basket, did a lot defensively. He just did a little bit of everything.”
The Bucks shot 55%. Guard Eric Bledsoe scored 30 points, Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 13 rebounds the Bucks shot 12 3-pointers on the Magic.
“Against that (Milwaukee) defense – I mean, that’s the best defense in the NBA – and to score 108 (points) at home, you give yourself a chance to win,’’ Clifford said. “But our defense is just not where it needs to be.’’
Malcolm Brogdon added 18 points, and Khris Middleton had 15
Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 27 points, Terrence Ross had 16, D.J. Augustin 14 and Jarell Martin 12.
Ross and Vucevic helped the Magic shave down a 16 point third quarter lead to five in the fourth quarter, and Jarrell Martin drilled a 3-pt shot to take it down to 87-75.
Bledsoe scored nine points to help the Bucks pull away. His three-point play with 9:09 left gave Milwaukee a 99-89 advantage. Orlando cut it to 106-102 with four minutes to play, but the Bucks scored on seven of their next eight possessions.
The Magic next face the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta on Monday.