Do the longshot Magic have a shot against the powerhouse Bucks? Umm – no.
The Orlando Magic have had the oddest experience of all 22 the teams in the NBA bubble, so close to their friends, family, and fans but so far away. And it’s hardly been a magical experience: they’ve been uneven, winning three games, but losing stout defender Jonathan Isaac (knee) for the season and high-flying forward Aaron Gordon (hamstring) for several games.
And now after failing to overtake the plucky Nets, they draw the Fighting Antetokounmpos.
How do they make Giannis and the Bucks sweat?
1. Healthy Gordon: Without the perennial Slam Dunk runner-up, and without Isaac, it’s hard to see anyone else on this squad who has the length and athleticism to keep Giannis even slightly contained. Steve Clifford will probably deploy veteran James Ennis a lot, but the former Heat and 76er swingman is not strong enough, and center Nikola Vucevic incredibly didn’t have a single block in the seeding games. So there’s no help behind. Praying may be the preferred option.
2. Shoot the lights out: The Bucks’ defense is designed to give up the three-point shot, from the shooters they want taking them. So yes, there will be overplays on Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier to let Markelle Fultz and even Ennis fire from outside. But neither Fournier nor Ross shot well in the seeding games, and that must change dramatically, even with hands in their face. Vucevic will try to pull Brook Lopez out of the paint, though the Magic don’t have enough attackers to fully leverage that.
3. Bad Bledsoe? The Bucks’ point guard didn’t play well last postseason, and he hasn’t been especially good when on the floor in Orlando, shooting 36 percent though his defense and ball-handling have been adequate. Fultz is hardly a shooter himself, but his Bubble numbers have actually been better than Bledsoe’s while averaging 23 minutes. If Fultz can play something closer to his top pick in the draft potential, it might force the Bucks to alter their defensive schemes somewhat and free Ross and Fournier for open looks.
The Better Bet: Bucks in 4. Other than geography, which would seem meaningless without fans in Orlando, it’s hard to see how the Magic has a single advantage. A cakewalk for the favourites.