The Bucks took care of business at home last night, defeating the Magic 97-91. It was a close game down to the wire but thankfully the Bucks came away with the W down the stretch. Khris Middleton led all scorers and tied his career high with 30 points, while Zaza Pachulia added a double double – 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. (Zaza’s game looks ugly, but he’s probably the Bucks’ most effective center, as sad as that is.) Nikola Vucevic had a double double of his own, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 boards for Orlando.
Despite what their record would indicate, the Magic aren’t a terrible team. Since firing their coach Jacque Vaughn they’ve gone 6-8. Victor Oladipo had been averaging 25.2 points per game in the month of March, but tonight the Bucks held him to just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. This was an important game to win, as the Bucks have a difficult schedule the rest of this month.
The Bucks did an outstanding job sharing the ball last night as they finished with 30 assists on 39 made field goals. Milwaukee also outrebounded the Magic significantly, 51-33. MCW struggled shooting the ball going 4-13 and committed a game high 5 turnovers, but he did a good job defensively and on the glass. You can definitely see flashes from him at times that would explain why Jason Kidd believes in him as the point guard of the future.
Since Knight was traded away, there have been some questions as to who would emerge as the Bucks’ go-to-guy down the stretch offensively, and I think we now know the answer to that question is Khris Middleton. He’s currently averaging 20.3 points per game in the month of March. Middleton is changing from being known primarily as a defensive stopper/advanced statistics darling into a legitimate scoring option for the Bucks. He’s likely going to live up to his nickname this offseason as he is set to make some serious money. The max for Middleton would be about 16.5 million give or take, and don’t be surprised if a team offers him close to that amount, which I firmly expect the Bucks to match.
Milwaukee starts a three game road trip tomorrow at Indiana. The Pacers are currently the hottest team in the NBA, having won 6 games in a row and 9 of their last 10. Indiana is 4.5 games behind the Bucks in the standings and have a legitimate shot at catching the Bucks for 6th place, especially since All Star Paul George is now set to return later this month. Indiana’s hot streak, combined with the Bucks coming off a back to back, makes me believe that this will be a tough game for the Bucks to win at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Prediction: Pacers 99, Bucks 89