Ever since Scott Skiles became the Milwaukee Bucks head coach, he has insisted that he’s wanted his team to push the ball as often as it could.
In those four-plus seasons, though, the Bucks seldom looked to get into the open court. Instead, they were primarily a half-court, run-the-shot-clock down type of team. In other words, hardly a fun team to watch from a fan’s perspective.
The Bucks actually haven’t deployed a frenetic, up-tempo offense since Terry Stotts was at the helm during the 2005-2006 season. That’s when the Bucks constantly ran. During that season, in back-to-back games, the Bucks had games of 125 and 132 points.
For comparison purposes, the most points the Bucks scored in a game last season were 119 against New York. The most points Skiles’ team scored during the 2010-2011 season were 116 – in overtime – against Toronto.
The Bucks may never be an offensive juggernaut under Skiles whose coaching philosophy is grounded in defense. But there are signs that Skiles may be loosening the reins, or the players themselves have taken matters into their own hands. In either instance, the Bucks’ offense has suddenly become rather explosive.
In their 105-96 victory over Philadelphia Monday in Philly, the Bucks busted out of the gates with a 34-point first quarter. They had 62 points at halftime.
In their 99-84 triumph over Indiana Wednesday night, the Bucks put on their track shoes again and repeatedly beat the slow-footed Pacers’ big men — mainly Roy Hibbert and David West — down the floor.
The Bucks rang up 82 after three periods against the Pacers and were well on their way to another high-octane offensive showing until Skiles called off the dogs after his team had a commanding lead.
For Monta Ellis, who had played in a run-and-gun system in Golden State before being dealt to Milwaukee last March, the Bucks’ new-and-improved offense is precisely what the Bucks need to do on a regular basis if they are to halt their two-year playoff hiatus.
“We talked about doing this when I came here last season, but we never really did it,” Ellis said. “The last two games we’ve been doing it. And we should.
“We have two of the best at doing this (he and fellow guard Brandon Jennings). When we get out there (in the open court), we’re not easy to guard.”
With Ellis and Jennings leading the charge, the Bucks are averaging 98.7 points through the first seven games. It’s the 10th-best scoring average among the NBA’s 30 teams. It’s also a vast improvement over last season’s ineffective and rather boring offense, which averaged a meager 91.9 points a game.
These are not the best of times for Ersan Ilyasova.
After signing a lucrative five-year contract over the summer that could pay him $40 million, Ilyasova is struggling mightily. He is averaging a mere 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a game compared to 13 points and 8.8 last season.
Worse, Ilyasova is shooting a dismal 28 percent from the field, 28 percent from 3-point range and a horrific 43 percent from the free throw line. Last the season, he shot 49 percent from the field, 46 percent from beyond arc and 78 percent from the line.
Ilyasova, who worked diligently during the offseason to get bigger and stronger, admitted he has felt the pressure of living up to his big contract.
“I have had trouble sleeping lately,” Ilyasova said. “I just got to keep working and find my rhythm.”
* Luc Mbah a Moute, who has yet to suit up this season after having knee surgery during the offseason, said there is a possibility he may begin practicing next week. Mbah a Moute is easily the Bucks’ best defender.
* The Bucks’ 5-2 start is their best since the 2009-2010 season when they advanced to the playoffs.
* There has been some chatter among NBA folks that Shabazz Muhammad, the gifted forward who has yet to be declared eligible to play at UCLA, could wind up playing overseas, ala Brandon Jennings.
* Cleveland power forward Tristan Thompson told me that fellow Canadian prep sensation Andrew Wiggins could be the second coming of Scottie Pippen. Thompson said he didn’t know where Wiggins would attend college, although the scuttlebutt has him headed to Kentucky.
* Bill Sattler, a self-described “die-hard Bucks fan,” is doing his best to make sure Jennings and Ellis are not only the Bucks’ backcourt of the present but of the future.
Sattler has created a Facebook page called “Stay Brandon and Monta” Sattler said the page was designed to gather support to keep the Bucks’ dynamic backcourt from leaving the team as free agents. Ellis has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season and Jennings will become a restricted free agent this summer.