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By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange February 3, 2013 12:20 AM
Orlando Magic could have been easy pickings for a surging Milwaukee Bucks team looking to snap a two-game losing streak.MILWAUKEE -- Missing three-fifths of their regular starting lineup, the
Instead, the Magic made things tough on Milwaukee, which responded to every attempt at an Orlando rally before pulling away late for a 107-98 victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The battered Magic lost their ninth game in a row. Already without Glen Davis, who underwent surgery on his broken foot Friday and is expected to be out for the next two to three months, the Magic took the court Saturday without leading scorer Arron Afflalo, whose strained hip has kept him out of four games, and Jameer Nelson, who bruised his left forearm Friday night against Boston. Still, the Magic stayed close thanks in large part to their inside game. Anchored by Nikola Vucevic's 20 points and 12 rebounds, the Magic outscored the Bucks 56-50 in the paint and held a 52-42 advantage on the boards. "He's wiry," Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "This is a physical league, and the older he gets, the stronger he gets -- he'll take more of those bumps and bruises -- but he kept going back and attacking the basket, battling for rebounds. It's good for him." Orlando's Maurice Harkless finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and J.J. Redick, making his seventh consecutive start, contributed 15 and eight assists. "We've got guys who can compete and come and play hard," Orlando guard E'Twaun Moore said. "That's what you ask for, everybody to come out, play hard and try to win ballgames." Milwaukee was able to overcome Orlando's threats with spurts of strong defense, especially against Redick. Monta Ellis was on the sixth-year pro for most of the game, and he held Redick to just 5-of-16 shooting, including 2-for-9 on 3-point attempts. Bucks coach Jim Boylan praised Ellis for delivering a top-notch defensive performance. "When he's playing like that and he's focused, he can guard just about anybody," Boylan said. On offense, Milwaukee had five players score in double digits. Ellis led the way with 21 points and 11 assists for his fourth double-double of the season. Brandon Jennings scored 20 points. Larry Sanders had 17 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks, and Ersan Ilyasova added 16 points and eight rebounds. Mike Dunleavy came off the bench and scored 11 for Milwaukee (25-21). "Offensively, it was a team effort," said Boylan. "We had a nice little rhythm going out there." Ilyasova and Sanders got Milwaukee off to a quick start. The duo combined for 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first quarter as Milwaukee shot 52 percent from the field to take a 31-22 lead. Orlando rallied in the second, drawing within 46-43 on Kyle O'Quinn's basket with 3:16 left in the quarter. The visitors trailed 52-48 at halftime. The Magic (14-33) took their first lead since going up 2-0 30 seconds into the game on Vucevic's layup that made it a 55-54 game with 8:17 left in the third. However, a 15-4 Milwaukee run, capped off by an Ilyasova 3-pointer, put the Bucks ahead 75-65, with 2:28 left in quarter. Milwaukee led 79-67 heading into the final quarter. After falling behind by 15 with 3:39 left in the game, the Magic used a 10-0 run to cut the lead to five on a Redick 3-pointer with 33 seconds left. Ellis made four of four free throws and Sanders hit two more in the final seconds to close it out for the Bucks. NOTES: Milwaukee improved to 19-12 against Eastern Conference and 9-3 against Atlantic Division opponents this season ... Vucevic recorded his 26th double-double of the season, good for third in the NBA. ... Ilyasova, who went 2-for-5 on 3-point attempts, has made multiple 3-pointers in eight consecutive games. ... Orlando has lost 20 of its past 22. ... The all-time series between the two teams is now tied, 43-43.