The Milwaukee Bucks entered the All-Star break as losers of six of their last seven, a dry spell that dropped them to 13-20 and put them on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. When they got back to work, they had to be excited to see the Washington Wizards as their first opponent of the second half, but they needed all 48 minutes and a nice little display of late-game fundamentals from forward Ersan Ilyasova to dispatch Randy Wittman's 7-26 squad.
The Bucks staked themselves to a 22-point first-half lead with a blistering 67-point outburst through two quarters, but let a makeshift Wizards lineup composed after Wittman sent a message by benching JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Trevor Booker to start the third quarter get back into the game. John Wall drove and connected on a runner to give the Wizards a 118-117 lead with 6.8 seconds remaining, leading to a Milwaukee timeout and the Bucks needing a play that would get them a basket.
Ilysaova flashed to the three-point line to receive Jennings' inbound pass, then screened and handed the ball right back to the passing point guard, who had a full head of steam coming from the boundary. As Jennings curled toward the lane, Ilyasova turned and rolled to the basket, then planted himself at the edge of the restricted area to set up for a rebound. Ilyasova's offensive rebounding position made it tough for the hard-charging Chris Singleton, who found himself trailing the play after coming out past the arc to hedge on Jennings in the screen-and-roll, to have an impact once the shot was in the air. Nobody else on the Wizards really seemed that interested in getting a body on Ilyasova either, because, y'know, they're the Wizards.
Jennings hoisted a lefty floater from the left side of the key, which bounced up and to the right side of the rim, where Ilyasova was waiting in perfect position, as Bucks coach Scott Skiles told Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"He's been on the O-board all year," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of Ilyasova. "He followed it up; he was right where he should be.
"And fortunately it came off in perfect position for him to be able to tip it in."
The easy-money putback gave the Bucks a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds remaining. Roger Mason Jr. tried to answer on the other end, but was called for traveling with one tick remaining as he pump-faked to avoid a Mike Dunleavy closeout, ending Washington's comeback hopes and giving the Bucks a 119-118 victory.
Ilyasova finished with 13 points and 11 boards, including five on the offensive glass, while Dunleavy led Milwaukee with 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting off the Bucks' bench. Booker responded strongly after his benching, leading six Wizards in double figures with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Wall added 19 points and 15 assists, but did cough the ball up seven times.
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- Ersan Ilyasova
- Washington Wizards
- Milwaukee Bucks
- The Bucks