The 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. The Orlando Magic will play the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round, over a seven game series.
All games will be broadcast live and on demand via the NBA League Pass for those that subscribe. Many games will also be shown live on Sky Sports here in the UK.
THE 2020 NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE
The schedule looks like this and is great for us U.K. fans:
TUESDAY 18TH AUGUST 6:30PM – GAME 1 – MAGIC VS BUCKS
THURSDAY 20TH AUGUST 11PM – GAME 2 – MAGIC VS BUCKS
SATURDAY 22ND AUGUST 6PM – GAME 3 – BUCKS VS MAGIC
MONDAY 24TH AUGUST 6:30PM – GAME 4 – BUCKS VS MAGIC
WEDNESDAY 26TH AUGUST TBD – GAME 5 – MAGIC VS BUCKS – IF NEEDED
FRIDAY 28TH AUGUST TBD – GAME 6 – BUCKS VS MAGIC – IF NEEDED
SUNDAY 30TH AUGUST TBD – GAME 7 – MAGIC VS BUCKS – IF NEEDED
THE ORLANDO MAGIC SQUAD
The Magic’s depth chart looks like this:
Point Guard: Markelle Fultz, DJ Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams
Shooting Guard: Evan Fournier, Terence Ross, Melvin Frazier Jr
Small Forward: James Ennis III, Wes Iwundu, Vic Law, BJ Johnson
Power Forward: Aaron Gordon, Gary Clark
Centre: Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch
At this time the Orlando starting line up of choice would be Markelle Fultz (12.1 PPG), Evan Fournier (18.5 PPG), James Ennis III (6.6 PPG), Aaron Gordon (14.4 PPG) & Nikola Vucevic (19.6 PPG).
From the bench would come a combination of DJ Augustin (10.5 PPG), Gary Clark (3.7 PPG), Wes Iwundu (5.8 PPG), Michael Carter Williams (7.2 PPG), Terence Ross (14.7 PPG) and Khem Birch (4.4 PPG).
The Magic did have two long term absences being Jonathan Isaac (11.9 PPG) (torn ACL) and Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 PPG) (torn meniscus). This changed when Mo Bamba (5.4 PPG) also left the NBA bubble on Friday in order to undergo “comprehensive post-coronavirus evaluation” and will now be out for the rest of the season.
For more stats on the Magic roster head to our team page.
THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS SQUAD
The Buck’s depth chart looks like this:
Point Guard: Eric Bledsoe, Donte DiVicenzo, George Hill
Shooting Guard: Wesley Matthews, Pat Connaughton, Kyle Korver
Small Forward: Khris Middleton, Sterling Brown, Thannis Antetokounmpo
Power Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, Marvin Williams, DJ Wilson
Centre: Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
Coached by Mike Budenholzer and an assistant team that includes Chad Forcier (assistant coach at Orlando 2016-18) the Bucks are a well run team. Budenholzer is the reigning Coach of the Year and is in the conversation for the award again.
In Giannis Antetokounmpo the Bucks have the current NBA MVP. He is a dominant force for them scoring 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds & 5.6 assists per game. He is surrounded by good players in a likely 10 or 11 man rotation that features Khris Middleton (20.9 PPG), Eric Bledsoe (14.9 PPG), Brook Lopez (12 PPG) and Wesley Matthews (7.4 PPG) as the starting lineup of choice. From the bench comes George Hill (9.4 PPG), Pat Connaughton (5.4 PPG), Kyle Korver (6.7 PPG), Robin Lopez (5.4 PPG), Ersan Ilysova (6.6 PPG) and Donte DiVincenzo (9.2 PPG).
The Magic now have a combined season record standing at a disappointing 33-40. That record leaves us in the 8th seed position in the Eastern Conference. In the bubble the Magic have frustratingly gone 3-5, including going on a losing run of 5 games straight. The seeding games have emphasised the season story for Orlando; face a team at sub 500 we likely win, face a team of plus 500 and we lose.
In the NBA offensive rankings the Magic are still 23rd, with a rating of 108.5 (points scored per 100 team possessions). Averaging 107.3 points per game which 24th in the NBA. The defensive ranking is now 10th in the NBA, with a rating of 109.5 (points conceded per 100 opponents possessions). Orlando surrender an average of 108.3 points per game (5th for opponents PPG in the NBA).
The Milwaukee Bucks come into the series as the top seed in the East with a 56-17 record, the best combined season record in the NBA. In the bubble the Bucks went 3-5. That record does not reflect their form, only that they arrived in the bubble secure as the top seed in the East. They have therefore been able to use the scrimmage and seeding games as an extended pre-season. They are 3rd in the league at scoring from 3 point land.
The Bucks rank 8th offensively in the NBA with a rating of 112.4, whilst scoring an average of 118.7 points per game (the best scoring record in the NBA). Defensively their rating of 102.9 whilst allowing opponents an average of 108.6 points per game gives them a the top defensive ranking in the NBA. Their defensive strategy is to not allow shots in the paint. It allows teams to shoot the 3 but the Bucks still defend that well. They do not foul and play one-on-one defence brilliantly.
MAGIC VS BUCKS: A HEAD-TO-HEAD HISTORY
The teams have met 4 times this season with the Bucks winning them all.
On November 1st in the first game played the Bucks won 123-91 in the Amway. The Milwaukee defence was on top all night forcing the Magic to shoot a field goal percentage of 37.4% (34-91) whilst also winning the rebound battle. Giannis led the way with 29 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists in 30 minutes of play.
On December 9th the Magic lost on the road 101-110. With under a minute to go Orlando were within 6 points. Again Giannis led the way 32 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in 29 minutes. Evan Fournier had scored 26 and Terence Ross 23. Again the Milwaukee defence prevailed leaving the Magic shooting a 38% field goal percentage.
Christmas saw the Magic return to face the Bucks a third time. December 28th saw Milwaukee secure a home win 100-111. No Giannis, but the same result as Milwaukee defence ground out a victory, dominating the boards. Middleton scored 21, whilst Ilyasova, Hill and Robin Lopez all hit 17 points. Evan led the Magic again with 23 points.
The final game was on February 8th and again the Bucks took the win in the Amway 111-95. Brook Lopez led the Bucks on 23 points with 9 of 13 shooting, including 5 of 5 from deep. Giannis had 18 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists. As in each previous game the Milwaukee defence kept the Magic at a field goal percentage of 37.8% and won the rebound contest easily.
Last season we lost the 3 game series 1-2. The head-to-head record in the 114 regular season games played sees the Bucks leading 61-53.
In the playoffs the Bucks are 3-1 up having met in 2001.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lets start with the obvious, how do you stop the Greek Freak; Giannis Antetokounmpo? Recently teams have been playing him physically which has led to his high profile “head bump”, ejection and single game suspension. Giannis has admitted that reaction was born of frustration at the physicality he has been experiencing and the lack of calls he is getting.
In his 3 games against the Magic this season Giannis has averaged 26.3 points, 15.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists. We now have no Jonathan Isaac to directly face him, however we do have Aaron Gordon.
Aaron Gordon was the Magic’s best player last year in the playoffs against the Raptors. Game on game he draws the toughest defensive assignment and in the 2020 NBA Playoffs it will be no different. Gordon has spent longer than any other player in the NBA guarding Giannis this season. AG will have to be at his best defensively to subdue the threat Giannis poses. will his hamstring issue have recovered enough to allow him to compete fully.
00AG also brings us an offensive threat. He has athleticism to spare and a god given ability to score in the paint. If Air Gordon can bring his best form to the court it is a huge bonus to the Magic cause. Gordon has a season average of 14.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
If in part Aaron can contain his man what other weapons do the Bucks hold?
Milwaukee’s point guard is a threat. He arrived late in the bubble but has seen his minutes increasing through the seeding games. He is a fast, accomplished two-way playmaker. Of 61 games played this season he has scored in double figures 45 times, having a season high of 34 points and 10 assists against Washington. His field goal shooting is 47.4% on the season, with 34.4% from the 3. The vast majority of his points come at the rim.
Khris Middleton is in some ways the Bucks under appreciated man. Against Orlando this season in 4 games he has averaged 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He has shot 49.7% from the field and 41.5% from deep. Give him a free throw and he hits 91.6%.
He is a top quality playmaker and deadly from the 3. He will be an instrumental part of any success the Bucks have in the postseason.
Who can the Magic hope to compete on the scoring front with these two guys?
Evan has found success this season against the league’s top rated defence. Milwaukee dare teams to shoot the 3 ball, their defence is built around defending the paint. Evan has averaged 20.5 points per game in his four appearances against Milwaukee, hitting 50% of his shots from deep against them.
On the season Evan is shooting 46.7% from the field and 39.9% from deep. He can score from any range, hitting 112 shots at the rim, 65 from 3 to 10ft, 84 from between 10ft and the 3 point line and finally hitting 173 shots from 3 point land in his 66 games played this season.
If Evan can find his rhythm consistently then he can cause the Bucks to potentially change their defensive strategy.
For the importance of the 3 ball the next name could easily be from the bench, Terence Ross. However lets go with our centre:
Vooch was a shadow of himself last year in the playoffs. Marc Gasol restricted him to scoring 11.2 points per game instead of his season average of 20.8. That drop in production was an important nail in the Orlando coffin for that series.
Vooch has scored a season average of 19.6 points, with 10.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Coming into the restarted NBA Vucevic has scored consistently well. He is a double-double machine.
Almost 75% of Vooch’s field goal points come at the rim or from less than 10ft from the basket. This is the scoring that Milwaukee set up defensively to choke out of teams. To be effective in this series Vooch will have to cope with another physical centre, Brook Lopez. That means he will need to be physically strong and step up the intensity of his game, particularly as the team leader. The playoffs is all about a teams star performing.
Simply put Nikola is too important a player for Orlando to be ineffective. If he fails we fail. Finding his rhythm with the 3 point shot may allow Vooch to get some additional scoring to help the team but this is his opportunity to show last years postseason jitters were learnt from. Any repeat will certainly be a death knell for Orlando’s chances again.
MAGIC PROSPECTS FOR THE 2020 NBA PLAYOFFS
Milwaukee will come out fast, looking to put the series to bed quickly. The 2019 Conference Finals finished in heartbreak for them. Taking a 3-0 lead over the Raptors, Toronto won the next four on route to the title.
Most NBA commentators and fans see the Magic as being incapable of going toe-to-toe with the Bucks and as having no possibly of causing any form of upset. Most predict a 4 game sweep for the Bucks without difficulty or drama.
Even as die hard fans realism tells us that the Magic are massive underdogs. There is a parallel to last season against the Raptors; when again Orlando were given zero chance of avoiding the sweep.
What actually happened was the Magic rattled the Raptors in game 1, taking the victory. In game 3 Orlando fought back from a large deficit, coming close to taking the game. In games 2, 4 and 5 the Magic were hugely outplayed but I can’t help but wonder what affect taking game 3 could have had on the oppositions mindset?
But differences are present this year. Orlando don’t have momentum going into the series, however the problem of consistent offence certainly remains. Entering the 2020 NBA playoffs Orlando are a sub 500 team, with an injury to arguably our most valuable player and on a poor run of form.
The season has been disappointing and frustrating for fans even with making the postseason again. The team rather than progressing have in many eyes taken a step back.
Is that assessment harsh? To judge the season accurately is difficult with the constant injuries experienced, the lost easier run in and the fact that at the time of the shutdown Orlando were balling. The season results, stats and performances are clear evidence for concern.
DEFEND THE 3, TAKE CARE OF THE BALL AND DON’T FOUL!
If the restarted NBA has shown us anything it is this that has been the route of the Magic’s issues.
Orlando have been blitzed on the 3 ball. The defeats to the Pacers and Nets showed how that failing took the game away from our reach quickly. Unfortunately that issue has been present all season when last year our figures were some of the best in the NBA. Our inconsistent offence fails to keep pace with opponents 3 point barrages so we rely on effective defence. Finding an answer to this problem will be central to playing Milwaukee and their 3 ball abilities.
As a team who do not make a lot of turnovers the restart has been disappointing for the Magic. Games have seen an unusual amount of handling errors and the ball being stolen. Those have been a source of points against us that have been the difference between winning and losing games.
Our defensive discipline must return if we are to keep the Bucks from getting to the free throw line. Every game in the bubble has seen the Magic concede in excess of 20 fouls. In August we have averaged 24 fouls per game, pre All-Star that was just 17.6 which was the best record in the league.
If the Magic hope to win a game they will have to do all of the above whilst hitting their own 3 ball shot consistently.
MAGIC AS AN 8 SEED
Orlando enter the 2020 NBA playoffs as the 8th seed in the East. The Magic have been the 8 seed in the playoffs twice before, in 2003 and 2007. Both series resulted in a loss in the first round to Detroit.
The 2003 series was the first year that the NBA playoffs were over a 7 game series. Had that not occurred the Magic as the 8 seed would have eliminated the Pistons, having famously taken a 3-1 lead.
Since the NBA expansion in 1983-84 the number 1 seed has won 67 of the 72 first round series over the 8 seed.
The 2001 first round playoff series between Orlando and Milwaukee is the only other time the two teams have met in the post season. That year the Magic were the 7th seed, the Bucks the 2nd. The Bucks prevailed 3-1 with the Magic overtime win in game 3 being a classic, Tracy McGrady scoring 42 points in the 116-121 victory.
THE 2020 NBA PLAYOFFS – AROUND THE NBA
The 2020 NBA Playoffs are now set with all 8 matchups being fixed:
Milwaukee Bucks (1) vs Orlando Magic (8)
Toronto Raptors (2) vs Brooklyn Nets (7)
Boston Celtics (3) vs Philadelphia 76ers (6)
Indiana Pacers (4) vs Miami Heat (5)
LA Lakers (1) vs Portland Trailblazers (8)
LA Clippers (2) vs Dallas Mavericks (7)
Denver Nuggets (3) vs Utah Jazz (6)
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs Houston Rockets (5)
The 8th seed in the West required a play in game between Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers. As the current 8th seed the Blazers needed to win once, whilst the Grizzlies required two consecutive wins to qualify. That game took place at 7:30pm UK time Saturday 15th August and was a feast of basketball. The Blazers prevailed and secured the 8th seed.
The 2020 NBA Playoffs begin on Monday 17th August.
Orlando Magic UK will be recording a playoff Penny For Your Thoughts preview episode so keep an eye out for that.
You can catch the previous episodes and subscribe to our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl72EQRVc39Ozngxkz3vYrQ
We will also be putting out our game preview to each of the matchups.