Bucks Wednesday: Ersan Ilyasova snaps out of slump on the road
One game doesn’t usually justify the ending of a severe slump, but Ersan Ilyasova needed a night like he had against the Los Angeles Lakers on New Year’s Eve.
Ilyasova entered Tuesday night’s game 10 for his last 56 (17.9 percent) in his last six games. An ankle injury suffered in the preseason opener on Oct. 8 has hampered Ilyasova all year long and probably has contributed to his struggles.
Against the Lakers, Ilyasova recorded just his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds and went 7 of 15 from the field. It was just the eighth time Ilyasova reached double figures this year.
"Obviously I was struggling with my ankle in the beginning but now I finally find my rhythm," Ilyasova said after Tuesday’s game. "The strength of my ankle is better. I was struggling with the shot but I fixed that thing. I’ve worked on it. The next game it’s going to fall in.
"I was out a lot of games but now I feel much better."
After finishing fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 44.4 percent last season, Ilyasova shooting just 17.8 percent (8-of-45) from beyond the arc this season, including missing his last 16 and 24 of his last 25.
Ilyasova missed his only attempt from distance Tuesday, but he was back to his aggressive self, crashing the boards and getting his points on put-backs and tip-ins.
"It’s important for any player on the team that is struggling shooting the basketball, you look to do other things to help the ballclub," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "(Tuesday) Ersan did that. He had some good looks, missed them. But I thought he came up with some very timely rebounds.
"It enabled us to get second opportunities and we were able to capitalize from it."
New-look lineup: It wasn’t a surprise to see Drew alter the starting lineup following back-to-back blowout losses, but the change made was a bit surprising.
Drew opted to insert veteran Luke Ridnour into the starting lineup just a few days after he didn’t play at all in Milwaukee’s loss to Minnesota. That bumped Brandon Knight to shooting guard, Giannis Antetokounmpo to small forward and sent Khris Middleton to the bench.
Ridnour played a season-high 35 minutes and scored 11 points with four rebounds and three assists.
"He’s a stabilizer," Drew said of Ridnour. "When teams are making runs, he has the savvy and the poise to slow things down and keep us organized."
Knight thrived in the two point guard lineup, finishing with a career-high 37 points, eight rebounds and four steals. The change did cut Middleton’s minutes to just 17 after he had been playing close to 35 minutes per game in December. It was a bit odd to see Middleton impacted by the chance since he’s been one of Milwaukee’s more consistent players.
Drew opted to go with Gary Neal, who hadn’t played since Dec. 14, as his backup shooting guard. Neal gave the Bucks a lift with nine points in 14 minutes off the bench. But that meant O.J. Mayo played just nine minutes and was held scoreless for just the fifth time in his career.
Caron Butler played just eight minutes, the fewest of his career in a game he’s appeared in. It was just the ninth time the veteran hasn’t scored in 747 games.
When asked if he plans to use the same lineup Thursday in Utah, Drew said: "I think it’s safe to say that. No doubt."
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