Bucks’ Ilyasova flourishes in starting role

Welcome to the 2019-20 edition of the Bucks Weekly Spotlight. Each Thursday we’ll track the progress of the players who are trying to help Milwaukee make a championship run, give updates on other players from the previous week and sometimes take a look at who is lighting it up for the Wisconsin Herd.

This is the 8th edition of the 2019-20 Bucks Weekly Spotlight.

SPOTLIGHT ON …

Forward Ersan Ilyasova

In his latest go-around with the Bucks, Ilyasova has been a fine role player.

Last season, he averaged a career-low 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds over 18.4 minutes per game – the first time he’d been under 20 minutes a game since his rookie season back in 2006-07.

This season, Ilyasova’s minutes are down even more – to 17.0 per game – but he’s been taking a different role.

Yes, he’s still providing some quality minutes off the bench, getting some points and rebounds and of course drawing charges. But with Giannis Antetokounmpo missing some games recently he’s taken on another role, that of a starter, and Ilyasova has shown he’s still got what it takes to be a bigger contributor when needed.

Ilyasova got a couple of starts earlier in December before getting a couple more in Milwaukee’s first two games of last week Dec. 27 and 28.

In the first game, a win at Atlanta, he had season-highs in points, 18 (his most since he had 19 on Oct. 26, 2018), and rebounds, 17 (most since March 26, 2017 when he had 18). Ilyasova made 7 of 8 shots in that game including both his 3-point attempts.

The next night in a victory at home over Orlando, Ilyasova had 17 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high five assists – only the seventh time in his career he’s had 5+ assists in a game.

Ilyasova was back on the bench for the Bucks in a win at Chicago but still posted his third straight double-double – 14 points and 11 rebounds in just over 19 minutes. It marked his second-longest double-double streak of his career.

That streak ended in Milwaukee’s next game, a New Year’s Day win over Minnesota, as he contributed seven points, five rebounds and three assists in under 17 minutes.

Back to his old role. But ready, willing and we know able to take on bigger things when called upon.

BUCKSHOTS

— This week in Giannis: As mentioned above, Antetokounmpo missed Milwaukee’s first two games of the week due to injury. He returned to post two double-doubles – 23 points and 10 rebounds at the Bulls and 32 points and 17 rebounds vs. the Timberwolves – making 21 of 36 shots (58.3%) in the process.

More Bucks coverage

— Khris Middleton averaged 20.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists in Milwaukee’s four games. Just in case you weren’t sure, he’s back in form.

— Robin Lopez might only be averaging 5.8 points per game, but last week he was at 11.3 points over 20.3 minutes of action in Milwaukee’s four games. He made 20 of 29 shots (69.0%) including hitting a couple of 3s, giving him 17 makes on the season (he had 11 in his career entering the year). Lopez also had a season-high four blocks against the Bulls.

— The other Lopez, Brook, had 14 blocks in four games, including six against Minnesota. He’s now first in the NBA in block percentage (8.3%) and second in blocks per game (2.5).

— Kyle Korver made 9 of 15 3-point attempts (and had at least two makes in all four games) and is now up to 40.9% shooting from beyond the arc this season.

— Guard Frank Mason, who is on a two-way contract, had 31 and 24 points in the Wisconsin Herd’s two games last week. Dragan Bender got into one Herd game and had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in just 20 minutes.