Orlando center Nikola Vucevic scored a playoff career-high 35 points and also grabbed 14 rebounds. The 35 points were the most he has scored since November 2018. Terrence Ross added 18 points, Gary Clark and Markelle Fultz both posted 15 points, and D.J. Augustin finished with 11 points and 11 assists.
“I’m used to seeing that,” Augustin said of Vucevic. “I think, personally, he got a lot of bad negativity last year in the playoffs. I think this year is something different for him. He has something to prove, being a top guy in our league. He showed it tonight.”
Antetokounmpo put up a gaudy 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Bucks shot just 43.3 percent. The reigning MVP failed to make a field goal in the last 11 minutes. George Hill scored 16 points off the bench, and Eric Bledsoe chipped in 15. Milwaukee was 18 for 28 from the free throw line, leaving much-needed points off the board.
“We’ve just got to play harder,” Antetokounmpo said. “Just make them feel uncomfortable. We were doing it at times, but we’ve got to do it for longer stretches of the game. … Hopefully we can come out in Game 2 and just be more aggressive, get in passing lanes, use our hands, be a little more physical and just get them off their rhythm. They played better than us, but we played hard. They made shots; they had the momentum. … They just played better.”
The Bucks came out of halftime with renewed energy and used a 16-7 run to get within a point, but they could not capitalize. A Brook Lopez turnaround with 8:13 left cut the Magic’s lead to six, but the Bucks never got closer.
“I think we were just super focused on offense,” Ross said. “We scouted them very well. We were just playing with laser focus tonight. … We know they’re going to go on runs. It’s the playoffs. People are going to go on runs. You’re going to get down 10, go up 10. It’s all about staying together.”
Orlando has been here before: The Magic stole Game 1 against the eventual champion Toronto Raptors last season. Orlando lost the next four games to get bounced in the first round.
The teams will play Game 2 at 6 p.m. Thursday.
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