December 28, 2021; Orlando, Florida, United States; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) heads for the basket in front of Orlando Magic center Moritz Wagner (21) in the second half at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
The Milwaukee Bucks are in a position to sweep their regular season streak with the Orlando Magic.
Orlando hosts Milwaukee Thursday for the fourth and final meeting between opponents in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks enjoyed a sizable lead in each of the first three games with the Magic, punctuated by Tuesday’s 127-110 victory in which they had a 29-point lead.
The Bucks not only have a four-game winning streak to go 10 games above .500 for the first time this season, but they’ve also won 15 of 20 after an 8-8 start. And they’re getting healthier at a time when many teams are struggling to maintain their rosters.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, six rebounds and six assists in the first of a two-game series in Orlando. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to help Milwaukee fend off a Magic rally, while Khris Middleton finished with 21 points on an 8-for-14 shot and Jrue Holiday had a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists.
Bobby Portis scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half as Milwaukee took a 72-45 advantage. Portis made all five of his 3-point attempts and clocked a record seven rebounds for good measure.
“We had some good basketball streaks,” Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game on Tuesday. “So I think when we’ve been healthy and we’ve had everyone, like everyone else, that’s probably when you’re at your best. Health has a lot to do with it.
Veteran center Brook Lopez (back surgery) was the only player to make Milwaukee’s injury list on Tuesday, as things remain complicated for Orlando. The Magic still had four players – Mo Bamba, Chuma Okeke, Terrence Ross and Mychal Mulder – in league health and safety protocols before the Bucks whistleblower.
That number increased by one when the Magic announced after the loss that guard Hassani Gravett had also entered protocols. Gravett, who signed a second 10-day contract on Dec. 27, played nearly 19 minutes in a starting role on Tuesday.
Former Michigan Wolverine Franz Wagner and former Michigan State Spartan Gary Harris continue to be key players for Orlando, which has lost 10 straight games to Milwaukee.
With Michigan men’s basketball coach (and former Magic player) Juwan Howard and the Wolverines, Wagner scored a career-high 38 points on Tuesday to boost his chances of being named the Conference Rookie of the Month. East for December. Wagner rose to 12 for 20 from the field, including 4 for 8 at 3 points, and converted his 10 free throws.
The eighth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft has scored in double digits in 17 straight games, tying him for the second longest streak by a Magic rookie. Tuesday’s performance also saw Wagner join Shaquille O’Neal and Dennis Scott as the only Magic rookies to score 38 or more points in a game.
Harris is averaging 18.2 points in the last six games, including 22, a season-high against New Orleans on Dec. 23. The 6-foot-4 guard has already reached three NBA milestones this season: 5,000 career points, 600 career 3-point field goals and 500 career steals.
“It was tough, especially with so many guys down,” Harris said after the Orlando shootout on Tuesday. “It’s been a really fluid situation for us, not necessarily knowing what’s going to happen every day. But come to work and like I said control what you can control, try to stay safe, stay healthy and try to win games.
–Field level media