The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Orlando Magic 118-104 on Saturday, closing out the first round series 4 games to 1. Two days after making a statement by refusing to play as a sign of protest, the Bucks made a statement on the court, looking like the number one seed in the East. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and Khris Middleton had a double double as well with 21 points and 10 boards. Despite a sluggish start to the 2020 playoffs that saw Milwaukee sleepwalk their way to a 122-110 upset in game one, the Bucks dominated the next four games, winning by an average of 14.5 points per game.
Leading the Bucks as he did all season was Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP and recent winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Greek Freak averaged 29.5 points per game on 55.3% shooting, while grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 5.6 assists. He looked every bit the favorite to win consecutive MVP Awards, and Milwaukee needed his usual dominance a little more than they have all season, thanks to serious shooting struggles from fellow All-Star Khris Middleton. Through the first 3 games of the series Middleton shot just 32% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc en route to averaging a full 10 PPG below his season average. Middleton finally woke up in the fourth quarter of game 4, scoring 18 of his 21 points and helping the Bucks secure the win.
The Magic made a valiant effort against the League’s best team behind the stellar play of Center Nikola Vucevic. He exploded in game one for 35 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 5 of 8 from deep and 62.5% overall. Terrance Ross added over 17 PPG for the Magic, while both DJ Augustin and Markelle Fultz both shot over 40% from three-point range. Ultimately, without Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon, the Magic were just too over-matched. Their first round loss sets up an epic second round eastern conference match-up between the Bucks and the Miami Heat.
Miami finished off their first round opponent, the Indiana Pacers earlier in the week in a 4 game sweep that saw the Heat look extremely potent on offense, and long and physical on defense. They will need to keep getting big production from guys like Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Goran Dragic. Dragic led the team in scoring in the first round with 22.8 points, while Herro tallied 16.5 per game and Robinson shot 45% from deep on 8 attempts a game. Many believe the Heat are uniquely equipped to at least slow down Giannis and the Bucks high-powered offense, thanks to the defensive presence of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Milwaukee has shown throughout the year that they are much more than just Giannis however, getting consistent production from their bench led by George Hill, Pat Connaughton, and Dante DiVincenzo. The Bucks bench unit boasts four different players with a defensive rating under 100 so far in these playoffs, and it’s that defensive efficiency that makes them so dominant. They do give up a historic number of threes, and the Heat have plenty of capable shooters, but Milwaukee suffocates opponents inside the arc and doesn’t allow second opportunities, meaning Miami will have to hope their shooters stay hot.
The Eastern Conference semifinal match-up between Milwaukee and Miami begins with game one of the series, but the league has yet to set the schedule for the match-up. Assuming the league stays on the same schedule they have been using, Monday will likely mark the start of the series. The Bucks are averaging 116.2 PPG and shooting 39% from three and 49% overall, while the Heat have scored 111 PPG on 39% from three and 46% overall. Both teams were fairly similar on the boards in the first round, with Milwaukee having the slight edge. This series promises to be an intense match-up between two of the best teams in the eastern conference who are both playing extremely well since the playoffs started. Whatever the outcome, let’s hope these rivals continue to produce the exciting games we’ve seen so far in the 2020 postseason.
Photo Credit: Matthew Boyce/Game Changer Sports Network
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