(WFRV) – Tonight the Milwaukee Bucks regained its confidence as the number one seed in the East.
“We have been talking about coming out with more competitiveness,” said head coach Mike Budenholzer. “And I thought our guys came out with competitive juices today.”
No surprise that Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge for the Bucks, posting 28 points and 20 rebounds in a 111-96 bounce-back win over the Magic on Thursday night.
Milwaukee saw 11 players hit the floor and seemed to take into consideration their lack of intensity from Game 1. Everyone started to get involved.
The first spark was Pat Connaughton meeting Orlando’s Wes Iwundu at the rim for a huge block that led to a George Hill jumper. That got the Bucks bench on their feet and set the tone for a 25-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“The coaching staff demanded more out of us and we demanded more out of ourselves,” said Connaughton.
The Magic couldn’t buy a basket early. They had just 11 field goals in the first half and saw a majority of its points at the foul line.
Connaughton continued his aggression and hit five beyond the arc for 15 points and added 11 boards for a double-double performance off the bench.
“Unbelievable,” said Giannis when asked about Connaughton’s night.
The Bucks appeared more vocal on defensive switches Thursday than earlier in the week. Some of it can be attributed to the Magic’s 21 percent shooting from three.
Brook Lopez returned to his normalcy and had 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Eric Bledsoe, besides being the primary guard defender, had an all-around game with 13 points and seven assists.
Milwaukee dominated Orlando in points in the paint, 42-24.
“We knew we had to come out and play hard and not talk about…but play about it,” said Antetokounmpo.
Nikola Vucevic had his own eruption in the third quarter and scored 16 points, 6-of-6 shooting, to get Orlando within 12. But the Bucks put clamps on the rest of the Magic and their lead never wavered.
Coming off his playoff-career high in Game 1, Vucevic took it down a notch and finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Vucevic didn’t have much help as no other teammate scored more than four times.
There are still things to clean-up for the Bucks as they had 21 turnovers and 26 fouls. Khris Middleton, a former all-star, has yet to show-up for Milwaukee. Just two points tonight and in the series, 5-of-20 shooting from the floor.
“We need to bring back that chip on our shoulder mentality. Where its just us 16 guys, our coaching staff, and everyone else from the organization here with us,” said Connaughton on what needs to change. “Bring it back to the cultural we started last season.”
Up next, Game 3 on Saturday with a noon tip.