Last Word on Pro Basketball is giving you an NBA Playoffs preview for each series as it begins inside the bubble.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic will begin their first-round matchup on Tuesday. The Bucks finished as the top seed in the East with the best record in the NBA at 56-17. On the other hand, the Magic come in as the East’s eighth seed with a 33-40 record. It’s safe to say there’s a massive gap between the two teams, as the Magic will begin the playoffs as the qualified team with the lowest winning percentage.
NBA Playoffs Preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Orlando Magic
This NBA Playoffs preview features two teams who have solid starting backcourts with players who stick to what they can do best.
The Bucks will run with Eric Bledsoe at the one and Wesley Matthews at the two. Bledsoe can do a little bit of everything at a high level. First of all, he is averaging just about 15 points per game this season. Due to the fact that he’s typically the third option on offense, that’s a strong number. Bledsoe can attack the basket with ease due to his impressive strength at his size. With that being said, he’s also a solid jump shooter. His three-point percentage of 34 isn’t spectacular, but it suggests that he can’t be left open. Against the Magic this season, however, they’ve held him to shooting 14 percent from deep.
Matthews has become a “three-and-d” specialist at his age. His seven points per game are what one can expect from this series. His three-point shooting is slightly down this year, but that’s also his most common shot. All in all, he’s going to play tough defense in his expected 20-25 minutes per game.
The Magic feature Markelle Fultz and Evan Fournier. Fultz has certainly become a more reliable shooter and distributor, but not enough to become a major factor just yet. His athleticism will be needed, however, to matchup and run with Bledsoe.
Fournier needs to provide a scoring punch to give the Magic a shot. After all, he is averaging over 18 points per game this season. His three-point shooting makes him a massive threat from the outside. He’s been fantastic versus Milwaukee this season, averaging close to 21 points per game. He’s going to have to up his defensive intensity, however.
The Bucks have the edge in the backcourt. They may not score as much as the Magic duo, but they don’t necessarily have to. Their tough defense will be enough.
Antetokounmpo will show out game-in and game-out. His averages of roughly 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists per game are just insane. He can score with ease against nearly every match-up. He’s also become one of the best defensive players in the game. His impact on the game is unlike any other player, and at just 30 minutes per game, he’s constantly rested and in shape.
If by any miracle the Magic can slow Antetokounmpo down, Middleton and Lopez can provide a scoring punch. Middleton averages 21 points per game and can do it all offensively. Lopez scores 12 points per game but can stretch the floor as a seven-footer. Both are tough defensively as well, as Middleton is a great perimeter defender and Lopez is one of the league’s top shot-blockers.
Ennis won’t be much a factor in this series. He’s slightly undersized and an average shooter at best. Gordon, still trying to live up to his potential, has to be at the top of his game. His averages of roughly 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists a game are very good, but the Bucks feature the top defense in the league. He’s going to have to do it all, combined with the seemingly impossible task of keeping Antetokounmpo at bay.
Vucevic is the Magic’s best player. He’s a tough rebounding center who can live in the paint, but also stretch the floor. He’s averaging close to 20 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists per game. He should win the individual match-up versus Lopez.
The loss of Jonathan Isaac will have a major impact on the Magic’s frontcourt defense. The Bucks have the edge by a longshot here.
Coaches and Benches
In this NBA Playoffs preview, there’s a big gap when it comes to these team’s benches. The Bucks can rely on their bench to be productive, while the Magic needs theirs to play beyond their expectations to salvage any wins.
Hill is a reliable ball handler and has become one of the top shooters from distance in the entire league. DiVincenzo is capable of playing both guard positions and is a major factor on both ends of the court. Connaughton, Williams, Lopez, and Ilyasova likely won’t put up huge numbers, but they too provide plenty. Lastly, Korver is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. He’s beyond past his prime, but he’ll knock down open shots with ease.
The Magic feature Terrence Ross, D.J. Augustin, Khem Birch, and Michael Carter-Williams, among others. Ross is the biggest X-factor here. When he’s on his game, he can score at will. He’s had a couple of high-scoring performances in the bubble thus far, and will likely play starter-caliber minutes. Augustin is still a productive point guard, but will likely struggle offensively versus Milwaukee’s defensive guards. Birch will play extended minutes with Mo Bamba being absent and can be counted on for high-energy plays. Carter-Williams, like Augustin, is a solid back-up guard as well but has been struggling with injuries.
Milwaukee has a clear edge on the bench, as they do in coaching. Mike Budenholzer is one of the top coaches in the league, and he might win Coach of the Year again this season. Steve Clifford for the Magic is decent by all means, but he simply doesn’t have as much to work with as Budenholzer does.
NBA Playoffs Preview Prediction – Milwaukee Bucks in Four
The Bucks will win this series in a sweep. After last season’s playoff disappointment, they’re going to want to get through the “easy” part of their playoff schedule quickly.
It’s hard to imagine the Magic taking any of the four games down to the wire as well. The Bucks are loaded, meanwhile the Magic’s best player in Vucevic, with all due respect, wasn’t an All-Star this year.