Milwaukee had seen this script before. The Bucks had to be determined to change it.
Holding a tenuous lead entering the fourth quarter, Milwaukee knows better than any team this last week how potent Orlando can be. A close game always comes down to execution, poise and belief. After two blown leads against this Magic team, you cannot blame the Bucks if they did not have this.
You would have had a tough time telling Brandon Jennings that as he made a difficult left-handed floater over Dwight Howard while drifting to his right to give the Bucks a two-point lead with 30 seconds left in the game.
This is where a veteran team like the Magic shows its true colors and puts a young team like the Bucks back to earth. Orlando had a great play set up, just like the ones it used to erase a late five-point deficit a few minutes earlier. J.J. Redick came around a screen and put up a floater that hit off the back iron. Workhorse Ersan Ilyasova, a terror on the boards all night, could not grab the rebound outright and tapped it back out toward the perimeter. Jameer Nelson was the one to pick it up.
He fed it quickly to the top of the key to a wide-open Ryan Anderson.
A two-point deficit was now a one-point lead. Milwaukee would not respond.
Brandon Jennings, finally finding his stroke against Orlando for the first time this season, looked for a driving lane. Jameer Nelson poked the ball away and Jennings and Hedo Turkoglu had to fight for the ball. It bounced off Jennings and through Turkoglu's legs and out of bounds.
The Magic made both free throws and the defense forced the Bucks to go for two points instead of three on an inbounds with five seconds left. Orlando escaped Milwaukee once again with a 93-90 win.
Execution was really the difference in this one.
The final play was built on the improvisation of Nelson finding Anderson, but that does not happen without some strong play elsewhere. That does not happen without J.J. Redick taking the open lane and getting a good look to tie the game. It does not happen without Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard crashing the glass hard to try and get an offensive rebound, forcing Ilyasova into cramped corners so he had to tap the ball out.
The opportunity certainly is not there without some strong execution.
Jennings' go-ahead shot was solid defense, but the final two minutes otherwise was a disaster for the Bucks yet again. Milwaukee faced an extremely difficult Orlando defense with a five-point lead. And an extremely efficient offense on the other end.
Turkoglu took off two points on a screen and roll the got him onto the wing where he took a step-back shot. Orlando then worked the ball into Dwight Howard and he made his move before finding J.J. Redick for a 3-point. Tie game.
The defense, meanwhile cut back on its struggles containing offensive rebounders and eliminated turnovers. Pure execution.
The Magic did not have that all night. There were stretches early on when the Magic were devastatingly efficient offensively, but gave up so many offensive rebounds and committed so turnovers that it negated the strong shooting.
Milwaukee grabbed 20 offensive rebounds led by Ersan Ilyasova's eight offensive boards. Even when Ryan Anderson did get a body on him, Ilyasova seemed able to outjump him or grab the rebound anyway. Another great effort on the glass for Ilyasova. He finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds for Milwaukee. The Bucks also scored 19 points off of 15 Magic turnovers. Milwaukee had 13 points off of six Orlando turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Orlando was really able to settle in when it secured its share of the rebounds (Orlando ended up with 16 offensive rebounds of its own and had a higher offensive rebound rate). Milwaukee seemed to go as its offensive rebounding and its ability to force turnovers went.
That is a sign that the Magic were in control of the game and really their own mistakes made this one close. Not to take anything away from the Bucks, they worked extremely hard and were ready to run at the Magic.
Still, Milwaukee had no answer for Dwight Howard, who had 28 points and 16 rebounds and, yes, got the ball late in the game and made some nice plays not necessarily to score, but to set up scores. With the ball running through him most of the night -- except a stretch in the fourth when the officials let Larry Sanders push and grab all he wanted (otherwise, Sanders played good defense holding his ground) -- the Magic always had a go-to way to get points.
There were also a lot of players who stepped up too. Jameer Nelson took over in the fourth quarter and did a lot of his damage in scoring 15 points and dishing out five assists in the second half. Turkoglu added 13 points and J.J. Redick had 11. Glen Davis came off the bench and had his best overall offensive game of the year with 12 points and six rebounds.
DeAndre Liggins even made his debut and played with a lot of energy and surprising awareness defensively considering how little practice time he has actually gotten (Jason Richardson missed his second game in a row and Quentin Richardson went out in the second quarter with a bruised thigh or knee).
There were problems Orlando needs to solve -- turnovers and offensive rebounds plagued the team all evening. But nothing could put a damper on another solidly executed win late in Milwaukee.