Orlando’s victory tied for the third-largest playoff upset by point spread in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“In the NBA and especially this year, where there’s no home court, I don’t think any team is as organized as they normally would be, and guys aren’t as in rhythm,” Clifford said before tipoff. “There’s going to be or there’s a good chance that there will be a couple of first-round upsets, and I think our guys have the right mentality: that if we play our best, we can make it hard on them and give themselves a chance, and it’s a great opportunity for us.”
The Magic led by as many as 18 points, with Nikola Vucevic lighting up the Bucks for a playoff-career-high 35 points and 14 rebounds on 15-for-24 shooting without a free throw. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists, with 5 personal fouls, but the Bucks shot just 43.3% as a team.
Aaron Gordon (strained left hamstring) and Michael Carter-Williams (strained left foot tendon) were both out for the Magic. Despite sweeping the regular-season matchup 4-0, by an average of 17 points, Milwaukee trailed by 13 points entering the fourth quarter after opening the game extremely flat.
Bucks guard George Hill said, “Everyone was too comfortable out there.”
“It’s tough. You’re in your room all day. You don’t have your family here,” Hill said of playing in the bubble. “I think all year we’ve been thriving off our home fans, so we don’t have those guys behind us. It’s basically in a gym just playing open gym, so it’s new to us. We haven’t figured it out yet, but when you get hit in the mouth today, you’ve got to figure it out to get back up and throw that next punch. So we’re gonna watch film tomorrow, figure it out as a team and be better next game.”
Before this latest loss, the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks were the most recent team to have the best record in the regular season and lose their opening playoff game. The Mavericks went 67-15 that season but lost Game 1 of their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors. They lost the series in six games.
This marks the second straight year that a title contender has lost to the Magic in its playoff opener. Last season, the No. 2-seed Raptors lost Game 1 but rebounded to win the series in five — and then won the title. The Raptors were 9.5-point favorites in Game 1 of that series; the 1-seed Bucks were 13.5-point favorites Tuesday.
The Magic had a .452 regular-season win percentage and won Tuesday’s game against the Bucks. That is lowest regular-season win percentage by a team to win its first playoff game of a postseason since the Hawks beat the Bullets in 1966. The Hawks had a .450 win percentage.
“We all believe we can win this series, but we have to take it one game at a time,” Clifford said. “Tonight, the effort was good, but now we have to adjust and get ready for the next one.”