Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs Orlando Magic (8)
The Milwaukee Bucks come into this series ranked as both the number 1 offense and defense in the NBA. The Bucks are 1st in scoring and 1st in rebounding. However, the Bucks went 3-5 in the seeding games. The Bucks who are led by last season’s MVP Giannis Antetokuounmpo aka the Greek Freak, will look to get back to their dominant ways against the Orlando Magic. The Magic suffered a huge loss during the seeding games in the form of power forward Jonathan Isaac tearing his ACL. Isaac was having an excellent season prior to the devastating injury. The Magic will look to play on and face the huge task of playing the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1st round of the Eastern conference playoffs. The Bucks swept the Magic 4-0 in the season series.
Giannis leads the Bucks in scoring against the Magic averaging better than 26 points per game. He also averaged 7 assists and a shade under 16 rebounds per game vs Orlando. Giannis’s “Robin” Khris Middleton is averaging almost 20 points a game against the Magic and has shot 50% from the field in the contests against the Magic. Point Guard Eric Bledsoe averages 14 points and 7 assists against the Magic. Back up point guard George Hill averages 12 point per game and a lights out 55% from 3 point land vs. Orlando. Back up forward Ersan Ilyasova averages over 10 points per game versus the Magic and shoots a whopping 69% from 3’s against them. Starting Bucks Center Brook Lopez scores 11 points a game against the Magic. So all in all that’s 7 Bucks players averaging double figures against Orlando.
The Magic for their part may be without star forward Aaron Gordon’s whose status is being reevaluated as of this writing. Gordon has a hamstring injury, he practiced on Sunday and may play in the first game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Gordon has been held to just 8 points per game thus far by the Bucks. The Magic will however have guards Markelle Fultz and Evan Fournier. Fournier put up 20 points a game against Milwaukee. Fultz for his part has given Orlando 9 points per outing against the Bucks. Magic Center Nikola Vucevic has put up just a hair under 20 points per game against the Bucks. The battle inside between Vucevic and Brook Lopez will be one to watch throughout this series.
For Orlando to have a chance at pulling the upset they’re going to need to throw bodies at the Greek Freak and doing everything they can to keep him out of the paint. Additionally, the Magic guards in Fournier and Fultz are going to have to run the Bucks’ Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe off the 3 point line. The Orlando forwards also cannot allow for Ersan Ilyasova to get open looks from the outside. The Magic’s Nikola Vucevic is going to have to win the slug fest in the paint against the Lopez twins. If Orlando is lucky, Aaron Gordon plays in the first game of this series because the Magic could really use his athleticism on both ends of the floor.
The Bucks for their part need to do what they’ve been doing all season, which is playing solid defense and beautiful offense. The Bucks average 116 points per game and have played solid defense all season. Shooting guard Wesley Matthews will have to play tenacious defense against Evan Fournier and Eric Bledsoe will have to dominate Markelle Fultz. The Lopez brothers will need to hold Vucevic to under 20. Giannis will have to do the same with Aaron Gordon in the event that Gordon plays. If Gordon doesn’t play in the first game, Giannis should work Magic forwards James Ennis and Gary Clark.
All in all this match heavily favors the Milwaukee Bucks given their talent and their focus. The Bucks beat the Magic 4 times this season, leaving no doubt they’re the better team. But now it’s the playoffs and the Bucks will be looking to focus on making a title run. The Orlando Magic will give it their all and hopefully they will have Aaron Gordon for not only the first game but for the rest of the series as well. The match between Gordon and Antetokounmpo should be a fun one to watch.
Enjoy the Games!