The Milwaukee Bucks failed to show up tonight, as the Orlando Magic put the Bucks to the sword from the outside, and ran out 126-117 winners. The Bucks had hopes of jumping into the 6th seed in the East by the end of the night, but now find themselves languishing perilously close to the 8th spot (pending tonights results).
Here’s my five takeaways on a terribly disappointing trip to Florida.
- Slow starts continue to haunt: Since the All-Star break, the Bucks have routinely found themselves struggling out the gates. Games against Washington and Philadelphia in particular, saw Milwaukee down 20+ points in the first period. Tonight, against a Magic team that had lost 12 of their last 14, they again dug themselves a deep hole to get out of. After taking a 13-to-9 lead with 7:22 remaining in the first quarter, Milwaukee went to sleep. The Magic then blasted the Bucks with a 27-to-7 run, to take a 16 point lead into the first break. The starting unit has been the Bucks strength for the best part of 18 months, this lacklustre run of late is certainly a disturbing trend heading towards the business end of the season.
- Giannis v Isaac works out just fine: Magic coach Frank Vogel announced rookie Jonathan Isaac would get the first opportunity to defend Giannis tonight, and it appeared Antetokounmpo was rubbing his hands together at the thought. The Greek Freak was at his aggressive best against Isaac, unleashing an attack on the basket that the Magic had no answer for. Antetokounmpo finished with 38 points and 10 rebounds, but it was’t enough to lift Milwaukee to victory.
- Scorching Simmons: Jonathon Simmons recently spoke with the Orlando Sentinal about the toll his increased role with Orlando has had on his body. “I’m not fresh at all. I’m fighting. I’m a fighter. I’m not going to let my team down. There’s been many times I feel like I could’ve sat out, but I’m not that kind of guy.” Simmons said. Showing absolutely no signs of fatigue tonight however, he scorched the Bucks with seven three-pointers to finish with a career high 35 points. Every time you felt the Bucks were creeping back into the game, Simmons arrived on the scene to quell the run. He was sensational, and the Bucks couldn’t respond.
- Three-Point Barrage: It wasn’t just Simmons that hurt the Bucks from the outside, as the Magic blasted Milwaukee with 18 made triples on 34 attempts, 53 percent. It marked the 12th time on the season that the Bucks had allowed greater then 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc. For reference, Golden State lead the league in three-point percentage at 39.4 percent. The Bucks are now 3-9 in those contests. The three-point defense has been a major issue for the Bucks for years, tonight it reared it’s ugly head once more.
- Jennings comes back down to earth: The Bucks may well have found themselves on a two game losing streak if it wasn’t for Brandon Jennings. His sensational return to the NBA scene against Memphis sparked the sluggish Bucks to victory on Monday night. Unfortunately, he was unable to have the same impact tonight, and after early foul trouble, was limited to just 8 minutes of action. With approximately 7 days left on his ten day contract, it will be interesting to see how his role plays out during the Atlanta and Cleveland games on tap. With Matthew Dellavedova’s pending return, Jennings may have limited opportunities to show what he’s got left.
Milwaukee now head back home for a Saturday night matchup with the lowly Atlanta Hawks. After tonights let down, you would expect the Bucks to bounce back hard, on what will be 90’s night at the Bradley Center.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus