NBA

Nikola Vucevic Joined Elite Company After Dominating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1

If the Milwaukee Bucks want to avoid an embarrassing first-round loss to the Orlando Magic, they’ll need to contain Nikola Vucevic. So far, it looks like the Bucks don’t have an answer for the Magic’s 6-foot-11, do-it-all center. Vucevic dominated Game 1 when the Magic shocked the Bucks, and in doing so, he joined some elite company in the record books.

Nikola Vucevic’s NBA career

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After playing his college basketball at USC, Nikola Vucevic was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft. Vucevic was selected 16th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and played just one season with the team. In his rookie year, Vucevic averaged 5.5 points in 51 games with the Sixers.

Vucevic was part of a four-team trade the landed him with the Orlando Magic. With the Magic, Vucevic started all 77 games he played during the 2012-13 season. He averaged a double-double that season, scoring 13.1 points and pulling down 11.9 rebounds per game.

In his eight seasons with the Magic, Vucevic has opened up his game. Through his first five seasons in the league, he made a combined seven 3-pointers as he was mainly a back-to-the-basket center. During the 2018-19 season, his lone NBA All-Star season, he made 84 3-point shots and averaged 20.8 points and 12 rebounds per game. This season, in 62 regular-season games, he has connected on 98 3-pointers.

The Milwaukee Bucks had no answer for Vucevic in Game 1

Nikola Vucevic was the main reason the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic shocked the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 122-110 Tuesday night. Vucevic simply dominated. Even with Milwaukee’s reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor, Vucevic was the best player on the court.

If the Bucks want to avoid an early playoff exit, they’ll have to shut down, or at least contain, Vucevic. Vucevic had 30 points through three quarters Tuesday and was scoring at will.

Vucevic wasn’t just scoring. In addition to his career playoff-high 35 points, he also grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out three assists. Vucevic made 62 percent of his shots from the floor and also went 5-for-8 from 3-point land. “He played out of his mind,” Antetokounmpo said to ESPN.

Vucevic joined strong company in the win

With his all-around effort Tuesday night, Nikola Vucevic joined some significant company with his 35-point, 14-rebound performance in Orlando’s stunning win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He became one of just three Orlando Magic players to put up at least 33 points and pull down 12 rebounds in a playoff game. The other two players are also centers, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard.

“He was just terrific,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said to ESPN. “He’s played very well down here. … He made big play after big play today. But I’m not surprised. Because his preparation for this playoff series, and I think it will show, he’s on top of things.”

The Milwaukee Bucks look to slow down Vucevic and the Orlando Magic on Thursday when they play Game 2 of the series.