The Bucks don’t have any magic solutions at their disposal. Over the next two weeks, they will be forced to play as few as four games, or as many as seven games, against a Miami Heat team whose record is 30-2 since the All-Star break. Do you what the Bucks call a stretch where they lose two games? A weekend. (*rimshot*)
With that being said, the Bucks do some things better than others. Here are a few strategies that I hope come into play at the start of the Bucks’ series in Miami.
1) A short hook for Ersan Ilyasova
Ersan Ilyasova brings a unique set of skills to a basketball court as a rebounder and three-point shooter. But there are two reasons to be wary of trying to overuse him in this series. First, his wrist is injured. He had an MRI Thursday, and the results came back negative. If his shooting stroke is in any way hampered by the injury, Ersan loses a lot of court value — as was the case back in November.
The second reason to sit Ilyasova is the way Miami uses LeBron James. Much like the way in which Carmelo Anthony was used against the Bucks in a pair of crucial games late last season, when Miami sticks LeBron at the power forward spot, there is nowhere to hide Ersan defensive. He can’t guard LeBron. He is also likely too small to stick with Chris Bosh, and too slow to chase someone like Shane Battier. In four games with Miami this season, Ilyasova played four minutes fewer than his typical per game average.
According to Synergy, Ilyasova finished the season with a 0.96 points per possession average — a mark good enough for him to be ranked 389th in the NBA this season.
2) Testing out Monta at point guard
This isn’t entirely a knock on Jennings — Jennings has played well against Miami this season and I fully expect him to embrace the bright lights of the big stage — but Brandon is a bit dinged up. He missed time late in the season for a sore left Achilles’ tendon, then sprained his right ankle. He did some nice shooting in the Oklahoma City game, but didn’t demonstrate any burst of speed or defensive intensity.
If Brandon plays well, then roll with it. But if he struggles, try out Monta Ellis at the point. Surround Monta with shooters and see what happens.
3) Throw it all at LeBron
The Bucks have a number of options for guarding LeBron. Unfortunately, none are particularly skilled offensively, so the Bucks may as well try them all and see which one works best. Or, alternately, the Bucks could keep rotating them so that they are fresh. On a scale from small to big, the Bucks could try Marquis Daniels, Mike Dunleavy (with the intent of making LeBron play defense too), Luc Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, or even John Henson. As a fourth quarter option, Larry Sanders (whoops, I mean LARRY SANDERS!) is available, if he isn’t in foul trouble by then.
Try different looks. See what works. In all likelihood, none of it will. But it’s worth testing out every option in the cupboard.