Giannis Antetokounmpo was frustrated with the Bucks’ effort in the bubble.
This won’t help.
No. 1 seed Milwaukee lost Game 1 of its first-round playoff series against the Magic, 122-110, Tuesday.
The Bucks are better than the Magic. That remains true and the most important indicator of future results.
But this series will go longer than the sweep many predicted – maybe much longer. Of the 12 No. 1 seeds to drop the opener of a 1-8 series, 11 lost an additional game in the series.
Beginning a high-stakes postseason, Milwaukee looked lethargic, falling behind by 18 in the first half.
Maybe it was overlooking an injury-riddled Orlando team. Maybe it was not getting energized by a merely virtual how crowd in the bubble. Maybe it was feeling out-of-sync with a weekday-afternoon tipoff.
Whatever the culprit, the Bucks will try to boost their energy for Game 2 Thursday.
Milwaukee can also just hope Orlando cools off.
As they typically do, the Bucks mostly protected the rim.* They allowed only 19 attempts in the restricted area. For perspective, they allowed a league-low 24 restricted-area shots per game in the regular season.
But Orlando sank the jumpers Milwaukee allows more freely in the tradeoff. The Magic shot 52% on 2-pointers outside the restricted area and 39% on 3-pointers. Nikola Vucevic (35 points on 10-of-16 2-point shooting and 5-of-8 3-point shooting) was particularly hot.
That level of shooting is probably unsustainable by Orlando.
In addition to Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu, the Magic were also missing Aaron Gordon and Michael Carter-Williams. Though the sidelined talent is significant, Orlando put better shooters on the floor than usual. Stylistically, that works well against the Bucks.
Milwaukee will also face better teams deeper in the playoffs – teams that get plus shooting from their top talent. The Bucks must be crisper in their perimeter defense and have better counters for when opponents’ shots are falling. Eventually, good teams might just successfully shoot over what is overall a great Milwaukee defense.
Antetokounmpo (31 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, five turnovers and five fouls, including a flagrant) was all over the place – mostly for better, but occasionally for worse. He can play better. His teammates can definitely play better.
They probably will.
They’ll also probably look better when Orlando doesn’t shoot like that.