“Shooters, they let it fly. For him, all great looks.”
Jason Kidd had no problems with what Ersan Ilyasova was doing on Saturday night. What Ilyasova was doing, was shooting. He finished Milwaukee’s 91-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls with just four made field goals in 20 attempts. Kidd had no issue with the number of attempts, as he shouldn’t. Ilaysova is on the court to grab rebounds, space the court and get up shots.
Let’s talk about some of these shots that Ilyasova takes though. Not from where or why, but the actual shots themselves. Always with the quick flips and fading away, is Ersan. It’s tough to watch at best and ineffective at worst. Two minutes into the game he attempted to quickly flip a shot over Pau Gasol who promptly rejected it. When he was getting rejected, these quick shots weren’t often falling and generally seemed low percentage. His lack of athleticism is striking at these moments.
When he’s spacing the court and providing shooting from the top of the key, Ilyasova is a real asset. When he’s grabbing offensive boards and taking charges, he’s making a real impact. When he’s launching one foot floaters? Not so much.
Ilyasova’s struggles were symbolic of the Bucks problems collectively on Saturday. The team could not make many shots, connecting on only 35% of its looks. Kidd said after the game he was pleased with the number of open looks the Bucks got, but it sure seemed like a smaller amount than the Bulls had. Chicago’s athleticism at a variety of positions really stood out against a Bucks team that, for all its length, is largely ground bound.
The likes of Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler seemed very impressive against Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Ilysaova, Jared Dudley and O.J. Mayo. There seemed to be gears the Bulls were reaching that the Bucks could not quite get to. That’s to be expected of a guy like Derrick Rose, but the way that Gibson seemed to at times bully and terrorize Henson and Ilyasova stood out to me.
There were positive developments Saturday. Larry Sanders looked very active and impactful, before fouling out in 24 minutes with 14 points and eight rebounds. No major injuries were suffered and the cheers for Jabari Parker before the game were louder than the cheers for Rose. Baby steps.
The most positive development was the continued development of Milwaukee’s potential cornerstone point guard/small forward/long guy. Brandon Knight was removed for precautionary reasons after running into Parker and that served up an opportunity for Giannis Antetokounmpo to get an extended audition at the point guard position. He ran the offense in the fourth quarter and looked both capable and sure of himself.
“I thought Giannis did a great job for us at the point, running the show,” Kidd said after the game. “Finding guys and also being able to find his shot. Again, with the minutes he played at the point, he did a lot of good things for us.”
Most intriguing was how he was actually Milwaukee’s point guard and not a forward handling the ball. The difference is not inconsequential.
While Kidd and John Hammond pointed out earlier in camp that they envisioned him playing with a smaller player at times and just handling the ball-handling duties, on Saturday, late in the game, he was not on the court with smaller players. He was on the court with Mayo Dudley and Parker as the other guards and wings. This forced the Bulls to matchup Kirk Hinrich on Giannis, who on a couple of occasions was able to make use of his size in the post. He drew a foul on Hinrich once and dropped in a neat little hook shot another time.
“He showed kind of that Magic Johnson little baby hook,” Kidd said. “Giannis, again when you talk about Jabari, Giannis they’re 19-years-old. They have to go through different situations so they’re computer brain can understand how teams are playing them, so we can get them in the post, either Jabari or Giannis. And then it’s just patience. Because right now, at 19, everything is going so fast. So we’re trying to get them to slow down.”
In time, Giannis and Parker will learn. For now, they’ll continue to show something that gets people excited about what could be to come. And that’s what will make Bucks games, even games like this one, worth watching this season.