Bucks bid to get back on track vs. Magic

NBA Basketball

The Milwaukee Bucks look to bounce back from a lackluster effort when they host the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Milwaukee had a five-game winning streak halted on Monday when it was routed 146-125 by the host San Antonio Spurs.

The setback dropped the Bucks one game behind the second-place Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference race with four games left to play.

The defeat was even worse for the Bucks (43-25) than the final score indicated. The Spurs scored a franchise-record 87 points in the first half while repeatedly shredding the Milwaukee defense.

It marked the third straight contest in which the Bucks allowed more than 130 points. Milwaukee is yielding an average of 137.7 during the stretch.

“Other teams are shooting it very well,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said afterward. “We got to limit that first penetration better, keep guys in front of us better.

“It’s the best part about the NBA. We have a game (Tuesday).”

Milwaukee is looking for its seventh straight victory over Orlando (21-47), and Budenholzer officially began looking forward to the matchup when he pulled the starting five with 6:37 left in Monday’s loss. The Bucks trailed by 23 at the time.

“It just didn’t feel like we had the energy to make a comeback,” Budenholzer said. “It felt like the right time to take the guys out.”

Two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points in 29 minutes but collected just three rebounds. Khris Middleton scored 23 points and Jrue Holiday added 20.

Milwaukee’s two victories over Orlando this season are by an average of 29.5 points.

The Magic’s fortunes have dropped so much that it is hard to fathom they lost a first-round playoff series in five games to the Bucks last August in the bubble near Orlando.

But with the club underachieving as the March 25 trading deadline approached, the franchise hit the reset button and dealt two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic and fellow starters Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.

Orlando is just 6-18 since the deadline and has dropped its last three games by an average of 26 points. Sunday’s loss was particularly ugly as the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves steamrolled the Magic 128-96 in the team’s home finale.

“We’re in a rebuilding situation, so when we made those trades this is what we’re committed to,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said after the team dropped to 1-11 at home since the deadline moves. “What our fans should expect is that we play hard every night. I don’t think it’s any secret where we’re at, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play hard and with purpose every night.”

Rookie guard R.J. Hampton, who was acquired in the deal that sent Gordon to the Denver Nuggets, is taking advantage of increased playing time. He scored a career-best 19 points against Minnesota and is averaging 17.4 points over the past five games.

Of course, Hampton wasn’t feeling all that great after a game in which his team trailed by as many as 43 points.

“I think it was mostly lack of effort, not coming prepared as a whole unit,” Hampton said. “We just got to be more aggressive. They hit us in the mouth first and we didn’t do anything about it.”

–Field Level Media

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