The Bucks punched the Magic in the mouth. There was no doubting that.
Milwaukee had sufficiently frustrated Dwight Howard into a 5-for-15 night from the floor and rendered him almost ineffective offensively. The Bucks had outworked the Magic on the offensive glass and turned almost half of their own missed shots into second-chance opportunities. Orlando cannot score if it does not get the ball, right?
It looked like the Bucks would run away with things.
Adding insult to injury, perhaps, the always loud Bucks fans were telling Jason Richardson he was washed up. Adding more insult to injury, Milwaukee went on a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to take a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Adding even more insult to injury, a Bucks player accidently smacked Richardson in the head late in the fourth quarter as that Bucks lead dissipated.
Milwaukee may have regretted that.
The referees would not stop action so Richardson could get his wits together. Surely he was not seeing straight at the time either. But eventually Hedo Turkoglu whipped the ball his way and Richardson instinctually rose to shoot the ball.
In the highlight of a 16-0 Magic run to answer that 13-0 Bucks run, the Magic pulled away from the Bucks and punched back behind Jason Richardson's 31 points and nine 3-point field goals.
It took the Magic finally outworking the Bucks to put the game away. Glen Davis tipped a missed Hedo Turkoglu free throw back out to Turkoglu for an offensive rebound. Jason Richardson rebounded his own miss and won the subsequent jump ball for another possession. Even though Orlando split two fo the four free throws, it made it a five-point game and effectively ended a 99-93 win at Bradley Center on Saturday.
Richardson was simply unconscious in the second half.
He started the second half by draining a three and creating some much-needed energy for Orlando. He did most of his damage in the second half after a puzzling first half where Milwaukee simply won all the hustle points. Orlando got the ball moving a bit more and quickly overtook Milwaukee for the lead. It made no sense the game was really this close at halftime.
Give the Magic credit, as always, for keeping the game close and giving themselves a chance to win. There was a lot of fight in the team. Especially from Richardson who has had to deal with criticism and inconsistent play all season.
Richardson and Stan Van Gundy talked before the game so Van Gundy could re-assure Richardson that he was still confident in his shooting after Richardson missed chances to tie or win the game in the losses to the Clippers and Hawks.
Richardson was not short of confidence tonight. He was 11 for 18 from the floor to go with his nine 3-point makes. Jameer Nelson even found him for a one handed alley oop. Richardson was making 3-pointers both open and covered. It made up for Dwight Howard's uncharacteristic struggles and eventually made the offensive rebound deficit OK to stomach.
Orlando was fighting hard to stay in the game, but Milwaukee was working that much harder especially in the first half. The Bucks had 15 offensive rebounds through the first three quarters. Nothing was so blatant as the work Ersan Ilyasova did. He had five offensive rebounds and 16 total rebounds, often outworking Glen Davis or avoiding a lax box out to get right to the basket for an easy lay in.
The good news throughout the night was that except for those short runs the Bucks offense struggled to get points. Drew Gooden was Milwaukee's leading scorer 21 points on 9-for-21 shooting. Brandon Jennings had only seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
The Bucks shot 41.9 percent despite the huge advantage they had on the offensive glass. The inconsistent scoring allowed Orlando to work its back in time and time again.
And when the Magic's 3-pointers fall, this is a tough team to beat.
Take the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second as a for instance. Mike Dunleavy checked into the game in the first quarter with the game tied at 13. Dunleavy scored the next eight points to give the Bucks a nice cushion heading into the second quarter. J.J. Redick checked in and proceeded to score most of his 14 points in the second quarter. Then the team struggled on the glass and the Bucks lead continued to fluctuate and the Bucks continued to stay in control.
The same happened at the end in the fourth quarter. Milwaukee made its run. Then Orlando made its run.
The team controlled the glass, limited Milwaukee to one shot and hit its own shots. Hedo Turkoglu finished another inconsistent game strong with some nice drives and even better passes. He ended with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting and six assists. A great game compared to where he has been this year (although there still were clueless turnovers).
After a week where the team struggled to close in tight games, the Magic executed perfectly and pulled out the stops to get the win. The Magic continue to get the results they need.