Bucks-Nets Preview


A big week by Ersan Ilyasova has given the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks a lift.

If his last visit to New Jersey was any indication, Ilyasova could be in for another big night Monday.

Ilyasova will try to help the Bucks win their 10th straight against the host Nets, who could be without Deron Williams.

Despite being seven games below .500, Milwaukee (17-24) is within one game of New York for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks (17-24) have won three of four, with the lone defeat in that span coming by two points to NBA-leading Chicago.

Ilyasova had 31 points and 12 rebounds in a 105-99 win over Toronto on Sunday - one point shy of the career high he set Wednesday in the loss to the Bulls.

The Turkish forward has averaged 29.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in his last three games, and played a career-high 44 minutes in Sunday's victory with the Bucks down to 10 healthy players.

"We were short-handed and I couldn't really get him a blow,'' coach Scott Skiles said. "I had to keep him out there. He did what he's been doing all year. He made his jumper, made his shots around the basket, he was on the boards. Another productive night for him.''

Ilyasova had one of his most impressive nights against the Nets on Feb. 19, finishing with 29 points and a career-high 25 rebounds in Milwaukee's 92-85 road victory - its ninth consecutive win in this series.

If the Bucks are to make it 10 straight over the Nets, they'll probably have to do it without Shaun Livingston (sprained left ankle) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (right knee), who did not play Sunday after getting injured in Friday's win over New York. Skiles said neither Mbah a Moute nor Livingston is expected back Monday.

Stephen Jackson has been sidelined by a sore right hamstring since Feb. 19.

Although Skiles has been pleased with how Ilyasova has stepped up, Brandon Jennings - Milwaukee's leading scorer with 18.9 points per game - has been held to 11 in two of his last three contests. He shot 4 of 14 Sunday.

While the Bucks know they'll be undermanned again, the Nets (14-28) hope Williams can return after missing a 112-106 loss to Houston on Saturday due to a strained right calf. He was expected to be re-evaluated Monday and is listed as day to day.

New Jersey had won its previous two, but Gerald Green inadvertently tipped in Houston's go-ahead shot with 63 seconds left and the Nets went scoreless over the final minute.

Despite missing their leading scorer, New Jersey shot 53.1 percent and produced its most points since January. Green finished with 26 points and Marshon Brooks added 23.

"Our guys really played hard," coach Avery Johnson said. "To get six guys in double figures and shoot 53 percent from the field, that's good. It's just that our defense wasn't very good."