The NBA season is here... finally. With that in mind, it is time to flip through the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store -- especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks ... months ... this preview IS never-ending, afterall).
Last Year/This Year: 35-47/14-22
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 96-85 in Milwaukee; Lost 97-87 in Orlando; Lost 93-89 in Milwaukee; Lost 78-72 in Orlando
This Year vs. Magic: Lost 99-93 in Milwaukee on Feb. 11; Lost 94-85 in Orlando on Feb. 17; Lost 93-90 in Milwaukee; March 3 in Orlando
Magic Connection: Drew Gooden (Player, 2003-04), Head Coach Scott Skiles (Player, 1989-94), Assistant Coach Joe Wolf (Player, 1995-96)
The Previews: Frank Madden/BrewHoop
Ah, Milwaukee. I think we have seen enough of the Bucks to last us an entire season. Or maybe we just need to see them one more time this week after four times in three weeks. This one-week break has been very very very nice.
Orlando has needed fourth-quarter comebacks in all three meetings with Milwaukee to this point, riding Jason Richardson's nine 3-pointer performance in the first one at Bradley Center and a 17-0 closing kick to take the second meeting. And then another miraculously late-game surge in the return trip to Bradley Center. The Bucks are giving the Magic problems. Or the Magic are giving the Bucks problems. Maybe they needed time away from each other to figure this matchup out.
So will they finally break through and get a win? That is a pretty good question.
So who exactly are these Bucks and what are they doing to give the Magic problems. Somehow I don't think this helps (sorry Stuff):
Milwaukee is the kind of team that will run up to you and kick you in the nuts if you are not careful. The Bucks may not have the most talent on the roster, but they have a lot of players who will work extremely hard.
No player may display that more than Ersan Ilyasova.
For whatever reason, Ilyasova is just a Magic killer. Ilyasova is averaging 10.9 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game this season. Ilyasova has begun to make a career on just pure grit. Like his countryman, Hedo Turkoglu, Ilyasova is a 6-foot-10 forward who can spread the floor and hit 3-pointers.
Unlike the NBA's premier players from Turkey -- Turkoglu and Memo Okur -- Ilyasova is a guy who does not mind getting a little dirty and grabbing some rebounds. Ilyasova had a 29-point, 25-rebound game in mid-February against the Nets and a 16-rebound game against the Magic at Amway Center.
These are the kind of players that Scott Skiles wants to find. And these are the kinds of players Skiles has.This Bucks team might have changed their offensive identity, picking up the pace to match some of the young, energetic horses on the roster like Brandon Jennings, but this is still a team built somewhat on defense. The numbers are not as impressive as they were last year, but what Skiles' team lacks in pure defensive numbers, they make up for in pure effort.
Mike Dunleavy has always been a guy who will work hard on both ends of the floor. Unheralded rookie Jon Leuer and unheralded big men Luc Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders off the bench just work and grind. Even the disgruntled Stephen Jackson will play hard when he is thrown into the fire (if that ever happens again before they inevitably ship him out).
Really, this is a team that could be very good and compete in a packed Eastern Conference. It just needs a star player.
And that is what Milwaukee is missing with Andrew Bogut on the shelf once again with an injury. Bogut is not a superstar player. But he certainly would have been in the running for a spot on the All-Star team had he stayed healthy. In 12 games, he averaged 11.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. He was very clearly not 100 percent healthy after several injuries slowed him down the last two years.
The Bucks need that support for Jennings as he figures out what kind of player he is going to be -- right now it is an inefficient, high-volume shooter. Jennings is averaging 17.9 points per game and taking 16.7 field goal attempts per game. He is shooting a career-best 39.9 percent from the floor. His true shooting percentage sits at 49.4 percent, which suggests he needst o get to the basket more if he is going to continue to be a high-volume shooter and an effective scorer.
These are the kind of things the Bucks are fighting through. This is a team with a lot of talent, and a lot of fight, but the question is whether it can put them all together and move forward. The Bucks still have a long way to go in that matter.
How the Bucks will beat the Magic: We have seen in three games that the Bucks are an extremely potent and energetic team. This is a group of players who will attack the glass and generally outwork you on either end of the floor. That kind of energy gives the Magic problems considering how inconsistent the team has been in that department all year. Milwaukee has gotten Orlando with its never-ending effort and frustrating defense. Of course, even that has not been enough. The Bucks need big games from their big players to stay with the Magic and the firepower they possess. More than that, Milwaukee has to finish. The fourth quarter has been horrible for the Bucks agast the Magic this season. So more than just playing with energy is needed to get a win.
How the Magic will beat the Bucks: Execution has been key for Orlando to erase three fourth-quarter deficits and dominate this season. That is the one advantage the veteran Magic certainly have over the young Bucks. Orlando knows how to run its stuff and get a decent shot against mediocre defenses late in games. That is what the Magic have done. Jason Richardson got hot. Or Hedo Turkoglu got hot. Orlando found the right person, fed them the ball and just overwhelmed Milwaukee. You hope Orlando does not have to get into this situation in the fourth and final matchup. The Magic have to look to play with energy and execute early on to build a lead because it does not seem like the Bucks can make the same comebacks the Magic have made this year.