Where’s the energy?
It’s the playoffs but Milwaukee was playing like it was, well, another game in the bubble. And there’s been a noticeable lack of energy by the Bucks in the games at Disney. Is it because of no fans? Being away from family? The whole bubble atmosphere? Playing down to their opponent’s (an eight seed) level? The defense – a good indication of a team’s intensity – was not there in Game 1. Orlando shot 49.4% from the field — 58.3% on 2s, which is where the Bucks are usually solid. Something needs to pick up here. The Bucks can’t rely on just turning it on and trying to go on a big run to get back into a game. That type of energy won’t sustain.
There are clear bad omens for the Bucks
As mentioned, the Bucks haven’t been the strongest in the bubble, now 3-6 in Orlando. If you’re looking for some common threads in the six losses, well, we’ve found a couple. Milwaukee shot only 33.3% from 3-point range in the loss to the Magic on Tuesday. It marked the sixth time the Bucks have made 33% or less of their shots from deep and the team is 1-5 in those games (the lone win being the bubble opener against Boston). In Milwaukee’s other loss (against Dallas), the Bucks shot just 34.1% from 3. Milwaukee is 15-14 overall this season when making one-third or fewer of its 3-point attempts. Also against Orlando, the Bucks turned the ball over 16 times. Milwaukee is now 1-5 in the bubble when it has 15+ turnovers (the other loss was also against the Mavericks, when the Bucks had 13).
Can’t just be Giannis
Let’s be clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo did not have his best game and credit to Orlando on its defense. Still, he had 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists. George Hill was next with 16 points, and three of those came in the final minute with the game out of reach. No one else had more than six rebounds or five assists. Antetokounmpo wants to put the team on his shoulders, but with this group, he shouldn’t have to.
Need more out of the bigs
In three regular-season games against Milwaukee, Nikola Vucevic had 14, 21 and 21 points, never making more than half of his shots in any contest. In Game 1, he had a season-high 35 points (he reached exactly 30 twice previously) on 15-of-24 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3. Brook Lopez played 29 minutes and made just 2 of 9 shots (0 of 4 from 3) with four rebounds. He did more damage to a sideline chair than he did the Magic. But beyond Lopez (and Giannis), head coach Mike Budenholzer elected to go with a smaller lineup. Robin Lopez played just two minutes, and that came at the end of the game, and 6-foot-8 Marvin Williams (six points, three rebounds) 16. Ersan Ilyasova was unavailable.
This is just one game
Yes, the regular season doesn’t mean anything this time of year and, yes, the Bucks in the bubble haven’t always been on their game. But the series is far from over. Milwaukee didn’t get the No. 1 seed by accident. It’s a best-of-seven series, so there’s a long way to go. And, as a reminder, Orlando also won its first game in the playoffs last year as a 7 seed. The Magic’s opponent? Toronto, which took the next four games en route to the NBA championship.