Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova has been a terror on the offensive glass over the past month. But it was the rebound he didn’t get that turned into his biggest play of the night against the New York Knicks.
Up 114-113 with 28 second to play, Brandon Jennings lofted a shot-clock beating prayer that was answered with a Drew Gooden tip to Ilyasova, who quickly laid it in the cup, giving Milwaukee a three point lead.
Playmaking at crucial points in a game is a sign of a true impact player, and Ilyasova has found himself in the right place at the right time throughout his 10-game run as the Bucks’ deadliest weapon (19.2 PPG, 54.3% FG, 11.3 RPG, 5 ORPG). Friday night was no different.
The Knicks used an 18-4 fourth quarter run to cut a 15-point deficit to one, but a couple late turnovers kept New York from capitalizing off Milwaukee’s unforced errors in crunch time (5-second violation, shot clock violation within the final two minutes).
In true Mike D’Antoni fashion, defense was more of a nuisance than necessity. New York pick and rolled their way to 60 points in the paint and Milwaukee connected on 13-26 three pointers. The Bucks reached 119 points on just 93 shots, and the Knicks hit 114 points on 10 fewer shots (46-83 FG).
These “take no defensive prisoners” type of games are exponentially more fun when you’re used to a team (the Bucks) routinely squeezing 90 points out of 98 cringe-inducing shots.
MVP: Brandon Jennings
On a team rife with hyper-efficiency, Brandon Jennings’ double-double was a cornerstone for the Bucks’ sustained lead. Jennings had 10 of his 25 points and 5 of his 10 assists in the third, driving the Bucks to a 32-18 advantage heading into the final quarter.
Jennings split nine of his 10 assists between the rim (4) and three point line (5). He owes some gratitude to Mike Dunleavy, who was very effective off the dribble (6-8 at the rim, all assisted) and ever-reliable behind the arc (3-6 3FG, all assisted).
LVP: Drew Gooden
Hello, Frustrated Drew Gooden, in all your shoulder sulking, head shaking, ball slamming glory. Gooden has raised his stock exponentially in the past month, but Friday night was definitely one to forget.
Gooden flopped and flailed his way to six turnovers, often visibly frustrated with himself and the Knicks’ physicality. Amare Stoudemire also turned Gooden into a human turn style on nearly every pick and roll (10-12 FG at the rim). And the dunks, oh, the open dunks!
This should delight you: Hyper-efficiency
Mike Dunleavy scored 25 points on 10-16 shots, including 16 in the first half. Ilyasova had a team-leading 26 points on a meager 9-13 attempts, and we’ve already covered Jennings’ double-double.
Dunleavy-Ilyasova-Jennings became the second three-pronged collection of teammates to score 25 points or more in a game this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden) accomplished this feat Wednesday night against the Suns (coincidentally, also defensively-challenged).
It kind of feels good to mention the Bucks and Thunder in a paragraph that involves a shared achievement.
This should concern you: Mental lapses
You shouldn’t have to wipe sweat from your brow after a successful inbounds pass, but the Bucks have managed to turn a seemingly routine play into brain surgery.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Bucks had two early shot clock violations and a near-devastating five-second violation inbounding the ball with 23 seconds remaining. The bigger problem here is Milwaukee’s lack of strong shot creators, as Jennings often found himself caught between two Knicks while trying to get open.
Final verdict: Not a bad week
In order to keep their season on life support, the Bucks needed to win at least two of their three straight home games against playoff teams, including the one directly above them in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Knicks have lost four straight, seven of their last 10, and haven’t won a road game since Valentine’s Day, but desperate teams can’t be selective winners. Any W is a good W at this point, and Milwaukee now stands two games back (rather than four) with upcoming games against Toronto, New Jersey, Cleveland, and Golden State.
The Bucks are in a good position to make a run at the Eastern Conference eighth spot. I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s good or bad for the organization.