(Editor’s Note: Tonight’s game review is from Nick Whalen, who is a student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison and an intern at Rotowire. Follow him on Twitter: @wha1en.)
60 points. 39 rebounds. 10 assists.
No, Wilt Chamberlain did not reincarnate and suit up for Wednesday’s Bucks-Magic game (how bizarre would that have been?). But Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic combined for that ridiculous stat line to lead Orlando to a 113-103 overtime victory over the Bucks on Wednesday.
From the opening tip, it was clear the league’s second-worst team was not quite ready to mail in the 2012-13 season.
Playing without Ersan Ilyasova (illness), Milwaukee was blitzed early by Tobias and Co. and found themselves down 30-16 at the end of the first period.
The Bucks looked like a team who had clinched the eighth seed early on, relying primarily on outside jumpers and one-on-one penetration. Brandon Jennings exited midway through the quarter with an apparent Achilles injury (it didn’t appear serious), relegating the point guard duties to J.J. Redick and Monta Ellis (with a dash of Ish Smith) for the remainder of the night.
Fortunately for the 20-59 Magic, the two combined to shoot a paltry 13-43 from the field and 2-15 from beyond the arc. Despite the shooting woes, however, Ellis contributed 11 assists and grabbed seven rebounds (with just two turnovers).
The lone bright spot of the opening quarter for Milwaukee came at the first timeout of the game, when JJ Redick was honored with a video montage thanking him for his six-and-a-half seasons in a Magic uniform. Redick received a standing ovation from fans at the Amway Center, as well as his former Magic teammates.
Just minutes after Jennings left with the Achilles, Larry Sanders took a hard fall on an ambitious (to say the least) dunk attempt over Moe Harkless. The league’s second-leading shot blocker landed directly on his tailbone and, after returning briefly in the second quarter, sat out the entire second half.
Sanders’ absence opened the door for rookie John Henson to play his best game to date as a professional. The rookie scored nine points and grabbed a Reggie Evans-esque 15 rebounds in the first half alone. He finished with 17 points as well as career highs in minutes (41), rebounds (25) and blocks (7), while doing an excellent job of quickly pushing the ball ahead to Redick and Ellis following defensive rebounds. Though Henson was active offensively, he missed several wild, contested put-back attempts – though that’s certainly something to be expected of a rookie big man.
Milwaukee clawed its way back into the game in the second quarter, with a lineup of Ellis-Redick-Ayon-Dunleavy-Henson closing the half on a 7-0 run sparked by three consecutive defensive stops. An Ellis wing-three capped the run and sent the Bucks into the locker room trailing 48-45.
The third quarter was back-and-forth, with both teams playing a fairly uptempo pace. Beno Udrih hit a couple midrange jumpers for Orlando and was consistently able to get into the lane for easy dump-offs to Vucevic and little-used Kyle O’Quinn. Milwaukee connected on just 7-23 shots, but headed into the fourth trailing by just four.
The final period saw much of the same, as the Henson-Harris-Vucevic rebounding exhibition continued. With 30 seconds remaining, Milwaukee held a 93-88 lead and looked as if they were going to send Orlando to its sixth consecutive loss (and 14th in its last 15 games). But, following a timeout, the Magic forced Mike Dunleavy into a questionable 5-second call and were able to capitalize on a controversial John Henson goaltend on the other end. Down 94-92 with nine seconds to play, Orlando intentionally fouled Ellis, who split the pair of free throws.
Then… this happened:
Harris, an 81% free throw shooter, would miss the free throw, sending the game into overtime knotted at 95.
With all of the momentum on their side, Orlando fed Vucevic down low early and Doron Lamb hit a key three pointer to all but seal the victory. Milwaukee was outscored 18-8 in the extra period.
Harris finished with 30 points (13-20 FG, 3-4 3-Pt), 19 rebounds and 5 assists, while Vucevic posted a nearly identical 30-20-5 line.
A few observations from a suspiciously entertaining night of basketball in Orlando:
1. John Henson can rebound and block shots with the best of them. Yes, it was against the lowly Magic; and, yes, he gets tossed around sometimes, but grabbing 25 rebounds and blocking seven shots against any team is no fluke. He has a long way to go offensively and in the weight room, but Henson is looking like he may have been the steal of last year’s draft.
2. Is it just me or does Tobias Harris looks considerably larger in a Magic jersey than he did in a Bucks uni? Maybe it has something to do with him wearing Dwight’s number 12.
3. The Bucks’ interior defense suffers when Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova are out of the game. Shocking observation, I know, but there is no excuse for giving up 68 points in the paint to the second-worst team in the league. Sure, Henson blocked some shots, but it was surprising that Boylan didn’t give Dalembert or – dare I say – Drew Gooden an opportunity to try to contain Vucevic. Ayon defended him fairly well in his 22 minutes but was limited with five fouls.
4. Tobias Harris really wanted to beat the Bucks. His inspired play was an indication of this all night, but he felt it necessary to cap it off with an unnecessary, uncontested fast break dunk with his team up eight with under ten seconds to play in overtime. It may have been simply a “heat of the moment” move, but he collided hard with Mike Dunleavy on the way back down the court and both players were issued technicals. Dunleavy was not happy with the play, to say the least.
5. Monta Ellis is not a three point shooter. Yes, yet another groundbreaking observation! To his credit, Ellis’ outside shooting has improved of late (37% in March), but it does not erase the fact that he shot 18% in February and 23% in January. He shot 1-8 from deep Wednesday, settling for tough shots when he could have attacked very weak, inexperienced defenders in E’Twaun Moore and Doron Lamb.
6. This is not a devastating loss for Milwaukee. You never want to lose to a team as bad as the Magic, but when put in perspective the loss isn’t so much “bad” as it is disappointing. With no Ersan to stretch the floor and help contain Harris, Marquis Daniels found himself mismatched fairly often, and Gustavo Ayon saw more minutes than any Bucks fan would have liked. It also certainly appeared as though Sanders and Jennings could have played through their respective nicks, and I believe both would have done so if anything significant was on the line. All in all, going into overtime with a hot-shooting team, in a meaningless game, without three of your top four players isn’t the end of the world.