Tuesday's NBA playoffs: Vucevic, Magic upset top-seeded Bucks in series opener
Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — The Milwaukee Bucks’ hopes of winning their first NBA title since 1971 got off to a rocky start.
Nikola Vucevic scored a playoff career-high 35 points and had 14 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic stunned the top-seeded Bucks 122-110 on Tuesday in the league’s fan-free Disney World bubble.
Terrence Ross scored 18 points, Gary Clark added 15 and D.J. Augustin had 11 points and 11 assists for the eighth-seeded Magic, who were 14-point underdogs.
Orlando took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, an intriguing result given that the Bucks can’t rely on home-court advantage in these pandemic-altered playoffs.
“We don’t care what other people have to say,” Vucevic said. “We focus on ourselves and we came out and played a great game on both ends of the floor.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists for Milwaukee. Last season’s MVP was held without a field goal over the final 11 minutes and seemed to get more frustrated as the fourth quarter went on.
“You have to really be ready for what they do,” Vucevic said. “Especially us against a team like Milwaukee where we have to make sure we know their stuff and we are prepared for everything. Tonight, we definitely were on top of that. We did a good job executing the game plan.”
The Bucks came into the postseason as the favorites to win the NBA title. But they went 3-5 in seeding games in the bubble, and that sluggish play carried over into the postseason.
George Hill said the Bucks needed to do some “soul searching.”
Antetokounmpo didn’t go that far, saying the Bucks’ energy level was fine, but that they need to make more shots. Milwaukee made 43% from the field and was 14 of 42 from 3-point land.
“There’s no magic wand to point and things are going to change,” Antetokounmpo said. “You’ve got to come out, play hard, play even harder, play together and have fun.”
Milwaukee swept the season series against Orlando, winning four games by an average of 17 points, but struggled with the Magic’s stingy defense, which caused 16 turnovers and repeatedly clogged the lane, forcing Antetokounmpo to settle for jump shots.
The Bucks’ frustration was evident when center Brook Lopez stomped on a chair – and then kicked it – in the bench area during a timeout.
“Obviously, our main focus was try to make it hard on Giannis, to protect the paint,” Vucevic said. “We did that as a team. Gary (Clark) did a great job fighting him and we were able to help.”
The Magic led most of the game.
Orlando used an early 15-2 run to build a 51-33 lead midway through the second quarter behind 16 points from Vucevic.
Milwaukee made several runs in the second half, but the Magic had an answer every time.
Vucevic had 14 points in the third quarter, scoring down in the low post against smaller defenders and stepping out to knock down 3s against bigger men as the Magic carried a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bucks trimmed the lead to six in the fourth, but Ross had a dunk and a layup off hard cuts to the basket and Augustin and Vucevic added 3s to push the lead back to 14. Evan Fournier, who went scoreless for three quarters, delivered the knockout punch with three 3-pointers in the final five minutes.
The challenge for the Magic will be to maintain their intensity. A year ago they beat the eventual NBA champion Raptors to kick off their opening-round series, but lost the next four.
“We came out with a huge victory,” Vucevic said. ”Again, it’s just one game. We’ve got to move on.”
More NBA playoffs
Miami 113, Indiana 101: Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, Goran Dragic had 24 and the Heat beat the Pacers in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The Heat pulled away in the closing minutes, long after the Pacers had lost star guard Victor Oladipo to an eye injury.
Bam Adebayo had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Heat, who were just a little bit better in a mostly even matchup between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds, who were separated by a game in the standings in this pandemic-shortened season.
Butler seemed to treat it like a road game, appearing to jaw at one point toward the virtual Pacers fans filling the sides of the arena in the NBA’s Disney World bubble.
T,J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points apiece for the Pacers, who will try to even the series on Thursday.
Houston 123, Oklahoma City 108: James Harden had 37 points and 11 rebounds, and the Rockets rolled past the Thunder in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
Houston All-Star Russell Westbrook, who played his previous 11 years with the Thunder, was out with a quad injury. The fourth-seeded Rockets still made 20 3-pointers and shot 48% from the field.
Jeff Green scored 22 points and Eric Gordon added 21 for Houston, which isn’t sure how long it will be without Westbrook.
Danilo Gallinari matched a playoff career high with 29 points for the fifth-seeded Thunder. Chris Paul, who joined the Oklahoma City in the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston, finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Steven Adams added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Gordon scored 16 points and Harden had 15 in the first half to help the Rockets take a 68-52 lead. Oklahoma City cut its deficit to 10 at one point in the third quarter, but the Rockets pulled away and led 104-83 heading into the fourth.
Portland 100, L.A. Lakers 93: Damian Lillard had 34 points and the Trail Blazers spoiled LeBron James’ first playoff appearance for the Lakers with a victory in Game 1 of the teams’ playoff series.
James had 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists for this 24th postseason triple-double. His assists were a career playoff high.
Jusuf Nurkic had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Portland, which led by as many as 16 points in the first half. The Lakers narrowed the advantage to 57-56 at the break and stayed close the rest of the way.
Trailing 78-75 going into the final period, the Lakers tied it at 78 on Kyle Kuzma’s 3-pointer. James’ layup gave Los Angeles the lead, and Kuzma added a pair of free throws and another layup to extend it to 84-78.
Lillard’s 3-pointer tied it at 87 with 5:46 to go and CJ McCollum’s floater gave Portland the lead.
Orlando 1, Milwaukee 0
Aug. 18: Orlando 122, Milwaukee 110
Aug. 20: Milwaukee vs. Orlando, 6
Aug. 22: Milwaukee vs. Orlando, 1
Aug. 24: Milwaukee vs. Orlando, 1:30
x-Aug. 26: Milwaukee vs. Orlando, TBD
x-Aug. 28: Milwaukee vs. Orlando, TBD
x-Aug. 30: Milwaukee vs. Orlando, TBD
Toronto 1, Brooklyn 0
Aug. 17: Toronto 134, Brooklyn 110
Aug. 19: Toronto vs. Brooklyn, 1:30
Aug. 21: Toronto vs. Brooklyn, 1:30
Aug. 23: Toronto vs. Brooklyn, 6:30
x-Aug. 25: Toronto vs. Brooklyn, TBD
x-Aug. 27: Toronto vs. Brooklyn, TBD
x-Aug. 29: Toronto vs. Brooklyn, TBD
Boston 1, Philadelphia 0
Aug. 17: Boston 109, Philadelphia 101
Aug. 19: Boston vs. Philadelphia, 1:35
Aug. 21: Boston vs. Philadelphia, 6:30
Aug. 23: Boston vs. Philadelphia, 1
x-Aug. 25: Boston vs. Philadelphia, TBD
x-Aug. 27: Boston vs. Philadelphia, TBD
x-Aug. 29: Boston vs. Philadelphia, TBD
Miami 1, Indiana 0
Aug. 18: Miami 113, Indiana 101
Aug. 20: Miami vs. Indiana, 1
Aug. 22: Miami vs. Indiana, 3:30
Aug. 24: Miami vs. Indiana, 6:30
x-Aug. 26: Miami vs. Indiana, TBD
x-Aug. 28: Miami vs. Indiana, TBD
x-Aug. 30: Miami vs. Indiana, TBD
Portland 1, L.A. Lakers 0
Aug. 18: Portland 100, L.A. Lakers 93
Aug. 20: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland, 9
Aug. 22: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland, 8:30
Aug. 24: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland, 9
x-Aug. 26: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland, TBD
x-Aug. 28: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland, TBD
x-Aug. 30: L.A. Lakers vs. Portland, TBD
L.A. Clippers 1, Dallas 0
Aug. 17: L.A. Clippers 118, Dallas 110
Aug. 19: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, 9
Aug. 21: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, 9
x-Aug. 23: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, 3:30
x-Aug. 25: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, TBD
x-Aug. 27: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, TBD
x-Aug. 29: L.A. Clippers vs. Dallas, TBD
Denver 1, Utah 0
Aug. 17: Denver 135, Utah 125, OT
Aug. 19: Denver vs Utah, 4
Aug. 21: Denver vs Utah, 4
Aug. 23: Denver vs Utah, 9
x-Aug. 25: Denver vs Utah, TBD
x-Aug. 27: Denver vs Utah, TBD
x-Aug. 29: Denver vs Utah, TBD
Houston 1, Oklahoma City 0
Aug. 18: Houston 123, Oklahoma City 108
Aug. 20: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, 3:30
Aug. 22: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, 6
Aug. 24: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, 4
x-Aug. 26: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, TBD
x-Aug. 28: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, TBD
x-Aug. 30: Oklahoma City vs. Houston, TBD