Preview: Bucks vs. Magic


MILWAUKEE — With one of their worst losses of the season behind them, the Milwaukee Bucks will try and regroup against the slumping Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at the Bradley Center.

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Indiana dominated the Bucks from start to finish earlier this week, leading by as many as 27 and no fewer than 20 during the third quarter in a 109-96 victory at Indianapolis.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to under 20 points for the second time this season, finishing with 17 on 3-of-8 shooting while hitting 11 of 14 from the free-throw line. But Antetokounmpo also committed four of the Bucks’ 17 turnovers.

“I thought frustration set in early for us,” Kidd said. “Turnovers led, for them, to easy baskets and then when we missed a couple shots we started to just get away from passing, trusting each other. Then the defense slowly just disappeared completely there in that first quarter.”

It was a rare off night for what has been one of the better offenses in the NBA this season. Milwaukee’s ‘big three’ of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combined to go 14-for-35 from the floor but as a whole, the Bucks shot 45.9 percent — a number that was inflated by a late-game surge from their bench with the game long since decided.

“(The starters) were just off,” Sterling Brown said. “They’ll bounce back, we ain’t got no doubt about that.”

Bouncing back has been a strength this season for the Bucks, who have lost three of their last five but still sit sixth in the Eastern Conference thanks to a tiebreaker with the Pistons. But with the Golden State Warriors due to visit Friday, kicking off a stretch of five straight games against teams currently in playoff contention, they’ll need to take advantage of a tired Orlando team that’s lost 25 of 29 games since starting the season 8-4, including a 114-99 loss at Dallas on Tuesday night.

The Magic played that game without Aaron Gordon in the starting lineup. He was held out at the start of the contest for what team officials told the Orlando Sentinel was a “violation of team rules” but entered the game with 5:31 left in the opening quarter and was on the floor to start the second half.

He finished with 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting with eight rebounds.

Jonathan Simmons played 20 minutes in the contest after sitting out Orlando’s last game with back spasms. An aggressive slasher in the lane, Simmons was one of the Magic’s best at generating trips to the line during the team’s hot start but since moving into the starting lineup in late November, he’s struggled in that department, averaging just 2.7 attempts in 33 minutes per game.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said prior to his team’s game at Dallas. “I think he was a little worn down. His legs were a little heavy for a stretch there, and it was a combination of things.”

The Bucks took the season series with Orlando a year ago with Antetokounmpo averaging 18.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in those contests. They’ve won three straight meetings in Milwaukee and four of their last six overall with the Magic.

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