Tampa Bay Sports Day

NBA NOTEBOOK: Magic’s Lopsided Loss Grew Worse in Second Half

MILWAUKEE – Going into Saturday night’s game against unbeaten Milwaukee, the Orlando Magic knew they had their work cut out trying to contain elite players Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe because of the 3-point shooters that the Bucks flood the floor with to deter double-teaming.

What they didn’t count on was the rest of Antetokounmpo’s lightly regarded supporting cast – namely Malcolm Brogdon, Donte DiVincenzo and Pat Connaughton – torching them on the defensive end of the floor all night.

Milwaukee’s pick-your-poison plan, one it has used all season to annihilate opposing defenses, was presented to Orlando on Saturday at the sparkling, new Fiserv Forum.

Just like the others before them, the Magic had very few answers in a 113-91 loss that grew lopsided in the second half and was heavy on frustration and exasperated expressions.

“Every one of those cutting baskets (for Milwaukee), it’s a mistake,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford fumed. “I think they had 18 and that’s without watching the tape. Those are crushing.

Orlando (2-4) was hoping that Milwaukee (6-0) playing a second night in a row and for a fourth time in six nights would give it an advantage, but not even fatigue can slow down the surging Bucks now. Milwaukee shot 50 from the floor, drilled 10 3-pointers and got solid production from Antetokounmpo. And, as the game grew more one-sided, the Magic’s lack of shooting was never more apparent than it was on Saturday.

Forwards Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac were purposefully left open and dared to shoot from the perimeter and both struggled to find the range. Gordon (nine points and five rebounds) missed all six of his 3-point shots, while Isaac (two points and three rebounds) was off target on each of his three 3-point tries. Both have shown growth with those shots at times this season, but they shot the ball with little confidence and even less success.

The Magic, who were hoping to bounce back from Thursday’s home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, shot just 33 percent from the floor and hit only 10 of 43 3-point shots. The 43 3-point heaves were a new franchise record, breaking the previous mark of 42 set on Feb. 8, 2012.

Orlando got a decent offensive night from Vucevic (16 points and nine rebounds), but the Bucks attacked him defensively and regularly either got the rim or hit 3-point shots.

Evan Fournier, Orlando’s second-leading scorer on the season, struggled through a poor night offensively, making just four of 12 shots and only one of six 3-point shots for 10 points.

Milwaukee, which demolished the dysfunctional Timberwolves in Minnesota a night earlier, needed just 21 points, seven rebounds and one assist from Antetokounmpo in 19 minutes. Middleton (18 points and two threes) continued his torrid shooting, while Brogdon (16 points and two threes), DiVincenzo (15 points) and Brook Lopez (11 points) took turns picking apart the Magic defense.

Orlando notched its best win of the season earlier in the week by coming out victorious in Boston. However, it hasn’t carried any momentum over from that gritty game, losing to Portland and Milwaukee.

Saturday’s game was the Magic’s first at Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee’s new, state-of-the-art downtown arena. No NBA team was readier to see the 30-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center go by the wayside than the Magic, who lost 10 of their last 11 games inside that outdated facility that’s in the process of being demolished. However, the results were eerily similar on Saturday in the new 17,500-seat arena situated next door to the Bradley Center.