The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic will close the calendar year by playing a two-game series for the second time this season.
The scene will shift to Orlando for Tuesday’s series opener. A two-game set in Milwaukee before Thanksgiving wasn’t pretty for the Magic, as the Bucks won both contests with a combined point differential of 40.
Milwaukee led by as many as 29 points in the second half on Nov. 20 and held off a late Magic rally to win 117-108. In the loss, Orlando made a season-high 19 3-pointers while establishing franchise records for triples attempted (51) in a game as well as most threes attempted in one half (32, second) and one quarter (18, fourth).
On Nov. 22, Milwaukee went ahead 77-36 after the opening two periods — Orlando’s largest halftime deficit in team history — and the lead grew to 51 points in the second half of an eventual 123-92 victory.
The Bucks bring even more momentum into their next meeting the Magic, who have lost nine straight to Milwaukee overall. That’s because while many teams, such as Orlando, are dealing with depleted rosters, Milwaukee is getting key players back into the rotation.
Milwaukee extended its current winning streak to three, overcoming a 19-point deficit to defeat the visiting Boston Celtics 117-113 on Christmas Day.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 36 points and 12 rebounds after missing the previous five games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Bobby Portis posted 16 points and 10 rebounds after a four-game absence in protocols, and Donte DiVincenzo played 16 minutes in his first game after suffering an ankle injury during last season’s playoffs.
Milwaukee also improved to 14-2 this season with Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Antetokounmpo in the lineup.
“We have to connect as much as possible, even though it’s in practice or within the game,” Antetokounmpo said after the Boston win. “Just to keep that chemistry going. I think we have a very, very great team, and if we stay humble and we stay hungry, great things are going to happen for us in the future.”
A revolving-door roster has had a dizzying effect on Orlando’s continuity. The Magic used their 11th different starting lineup Sunday in a 93-83 road loss to Sunshine State rival Miami.
Orlando, which is 0-16 this season when scoring less than 100 points, continues to have a fluid roster. The Magic signed six players to 10-day hardship contracts — four on Dec. 17 and two on Dec. 21 — and all have played significant minutes, although B.J. Johnson (virus protocols) was ruled out on Sunday.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “These guys came into the first run, basically playing three games in four nights. Having to understand the protocols and stepping in and just being ready to play their minutes. Encouraging our guys in the locker room, and when their number was called, they stepped right in ready to play.”
Orlando’s Franz Wagner has scored in double figures in 16 consecutive games following a scoreless performance against Milwaukee on Nov. 22. It marks the second-longest streak by a Magic rookie since the 2000-01 season, and Wagner is one game from tying Jameer Nelson’s 2005 record of 17.
The two-game series between the Bucks and Magic will conclude Thursday in Orlando.
–Field Level Media