Tonight our Orlando Magic are back in Amway, taking on the Bucks in a game that has been selected to feature on NBA Saturday. That means this game has a great U.K. tip time of 10pm & is live on Sky Sports Mix here in the U.K. is free to view on Sky Sports YouTube channel & will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
This is the fourth & final time this season that we face the Bucks. We all know that our form against the elite +500 teams this season is dire.
The Playoff Picture
Wins are becoming of a premium as we chase qualification & seeding in the playoffs, which is far from guaranteed yet. As we continue to scrap with Brooklyn for the 7th & 8th seeding. We trail further after the Knicks loss. They are clear above us & have played 2 games less. At this time we hold the tiebreaker over them. Before the end of March we face the Nets 3 more times. The Magic now have a 22 & 30 losing record for the season, sitting 8th in the Eastern Conference.
Frustratingly & embarrassingly, we took a loss last time out in New York, going down by 4 to the Knicks on the road 103-105. That game earned Coach Clifford a $25k fine for his abuse of the officials for their inept performance in the final few seconds missing a foul on Fournier & his calling for a timeout.
Across our last 10 games we have a terrible 2 & 8 record. In the Amway our form has been better than our road performances, sitting now at 13 & 12. That can & must be improved.
In the NBA offensive rankings we moved back again to 27th with a rating of 105.8 but our average scoring is still only 103.3 points per game (which remains the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg).
In the defensive ranking remains the 7th best at 107.3, whilst still allowing only 104.8 points per game (which is still the best record for opponents ppg in the NBA).
Magic Injury Report & Starters
Today’s injury report for the Magic is as before: Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) out with a severe left knee strain & bone contusion which will not be re-evaluated until early-mid March. Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) is out indefinitely after surgery. DJ Augustin (10.7 ppg) is out with a knee injury which is due to be re-evaluated in mid February.
Therefore our starting lineup will likely be Evan Fournier (18.7 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (18.8 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.6 ppg) & Aaron Gordon (13.8 ppg) likely to be joined by Khem Birch (3.9 ppg).
From the bench we have Wes Iwundu (5 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.7 ppg), Terence Ross (13.2 ppg), Mo Bamba (5.5 ppg), BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.6 ppg) who has now been signed to the end of the season. With the signing of James Ennis (5.8 ppg) at the deadline (I’m not aware that he is available for tonight) Amile Jefferson (0.8 ppg) has been waived from the squad.
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the blue Statement uniform tonight.
As they come into the game the Bucks rank 1st in the East with a 44 & 7 record, which is the best in the NBA. In their last 10 games they are 9 & 1 & come into tonight having won 3 on the bounce. With an impressive 20-4 road record Milwaukee travel well. They have been virtually unstoppable this season so far.
Ranking 2nd offensively in the NBA with a rating of 113.8, whilst scoring an average of 119.9 points per game (the best scoring record in the NBA). Defensively their rating of 102 whilst allowing opponents an average of 107.5 points per game gives them a the top defensive ranking in the NBA. They come into tonight having won at home in their last outing against the 76ers 101-112.
In Giannis Antetokounmpo the Bucks have the current NBA MVP. He is a dominant force for their team scoring 30.2 points, 13.4 rebounds & 5.8 assists per game. He is surrounded by good players in a 10 man rotation that features Eric Bledsoe (15.3 ppg), , Brook Lopez (10.1 ppg), Khris Middleton (20.3 ppg), Pat Connaughton (4.9 ppg), Kyle Korver (6.5 ppg), Robin Lopez (5.5 ppg), Ersan Ilysova (7.4 ppg), Dragan Bender (3.7 ppg)& Wesley Matthews (7.4 ppg).
The Bucks have only George Hill (9.7 ppg) (hamstring) listed as being out injured.
It will be a surprise if the Bucks are not in the top 2 in the East come April.
We have already met this season 3 times & the Bucks have pretty much smashed us to win them all. Last season we lost the 3 game series 1-2 losing record. The head-to-head record in the 113 regular season games played sees the Bucks leading 60-53. In the playoffs the Bucks are 3-1 up.
Keys To The Game
As I wrote last time we come into the fixture undermanned, our form not good & offence still dysfunctional. We desperately need our defence to build us a platform to have a chance to win the game tonight. If we go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead we should feel hopeful. We are 19 & 2 from that position this season. Along with our scoring droughts the downfall was again uncharacteristic amount of turnovers & points scored from those. We have to take care of the ball.
Anyone who follows the NBA expects the Bucks to sweep by us tonight. For us to get a win we will have to contain the scoring of Giannis, Middleton & Bledsoe. I was in the Amway on March 14 2018 when the Bucks came in & were expected to beat us, only to see us perform superbly for a 117-126 win. Who is to say we can’t do it again?
Watch out for A Moment With Dante during the broadcast tonight.
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC