Ilyasova steps up to replace Bogut
The 6-foot-10 power forward has played a huge part in the bench’s success throughout the season. But in the absence of injured Australian center Andrew Bogut, Ilyasova now will be called on to play some key minutes as an undersized pivot man against either the Atlanta Hawks.
It’s a difficult task, to be sure, but Ilyasova, who is from Eskisehir, Turkey, is the only player on the roster who can do it. He has displayed the tenacity under the basket to battle for rebounds, and he also can draw opposing big men out of the paint if he is sinking his three-point shot.
Putting Ilyasova at the 5 spot, at least for some portions of the game, is an intriguing option for Bucks coach Scott Skiles and keeps center Kurt Thomas from piling up too many minutes.
“I’d say we had a few minutes of success with it against Boston, not so much (Monday) night,” Skiles said of the smaller lineup, which uses Carlos Delfino or Jerry Stackhouse at power forward.
“It’s something we may go to again. I don’t have any problem believing that we could settle into it and be good at it if we kept working with it.
“It’s just we are in a time pinch right now. More than likely we’ll do it some (Wednesday) night and just see what happens.”
Ilyasova thinks he can handle the center position on a limited basis and is not afraid to give it a try. He finished the third quarter and started the fourth period Monday at the pivot but was replaced by Thomas with about 10 minutes remaining.
“When I play 5, it’s hard to guard those big guys,” Ilyasova said. “Usually at the 5 position are some stronger guys, and I try to battle them. I try to push them outside the paint and not let them make easy baskets on me.
“When we play a smaller lineup, we have some advantage because Carlos (Delfino) can play 4 and shoot three-pointers. I think we have to use it more and play aggressive when we use a small lineup. I think we do really well sometimes.”
The lineup can be a liability on the defensive end if the Bucks are unable to secure rebounds and are giving up too many points in the paint.
“Sometimes we’re losing too many rebounds,” Ilyasova said. “Right now Andrew is out, and we have to deal with it. Andrew was a big part of making the playoffs, but now everybody has to do more than we did before. And we have to play more aggressive defensively if we want to be successful in the playoffs.”
Ilyasova was 2 of 11 from the field against Atlanta on Monday and 4 of 12 against Boston. In the last three games before Wednesday night, the Turkish forward has shot 25 percent (7 of 28). But he was 19 for 35 in the previous three games as the Bucks beat Phoenix, Chicago and New Jersey.
“He’s got to make good decisions when the ball does come to him,” Skiles said of Ilyasova’s effectiveness in a small lineup. “When he’s open, shoot it. Ersan has a tendency to pump fake air when nobody’s around.
“We feel he’s gotten better at that. It’s better if he just shoots it. Also over the last month or so his game is progressing a little bit where he’s able to pump fake and go by some people, dribble in and do something at the basket.
“We encourage him to do that. It’s just those split-second decisions you have to make.”
Backup centers Dan Gadzuric and Primoz Brezec were limited to a combined eight minutes against Atlanta. If that trend continues in the playoffs, a major burden will fall on Thomas, Ilyasova and starting power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
“Atlanta has a lot of athletic players who can block shots, and they can guard anyone from point guards to big men,” Ilyasova said. “If they’re going to be our playoff opponent, we have to adjust to this game.
“I think we have to penetrate and go to the basket, get more free throws and second-shot opportunities. It’s hard to adjust to teams that are switching all the time, but we have to adjust and play better.”
The Bucks remain confident about their chances in a first-round series despite losing Bogut after he suffered a broken right hand and dislocated right elbow in the game against Phoenix on April 3.
“We finally made it to the playoffs, and it’s a really big success for us,” Ilyasova said. “And it’s not over yet.
“Now is the most important part of the season. The first (playoff) game will be important. If we play our game, we can beat anybody. If we win one time on the road, anything can happen.”