MILWAUKEE (AP) — Ersan Ilyasova isn’t exactly a household name like Jeremy Lin.
Lately, the Milwaukee Bucks forward’s game has been pretty impressive.
Ilyasova had 26 points, including a critical putback in the final minute, and the Bucks held on to beat the New York Knicks 119-114 on Friday.
“Ersan saved the day again,” Brandon Jennings said.
Ilyasova was coming off a career-high 32-point performance in Milwaukee’s last-second loss to the Bulls on Wednesday. Heading into Friday’s game, Ilyasova was averaging 18.5 points and 11.6 rebounds over his previous 11 games.
The native of Turkey was just happy the Bucks didn’t let this one slip away after losing on Derrick Rose’s buzzer-beater earlier in the week.
“It was a hell of a win, especially to lose the game against Chicago in the last second,” Ilyasova said.
Jennings and Mike Dunleavy Jr. added 25 points each for the Bucks.
Amar’e Stoudemire had 27 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who have lost four straight and seven of their past 10.
“Once you get down by 15, everything has to go right and we couldn’t do it,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We played hard, we had a good chance but we couldn’t pull it out. We couldn’t get enough stops.”
Carmelo Anthony had 22 points, while Lin had 20 points and 13 assists, with four steals and five turnovers.
“They hit some tough shots,” Lin said. “We didn’t get all the rebounds we should have gotten. Tonight wasn’t a lack of energy, it wasn’t a lack of heart or will. They just came out with this win. We played extremely hard. We moved the ball and shared the ball.”
Asked about Lin’s play, Jennings praised him — but only to a point.
“I don’t know about the whole `Linsanity’ thing,” Jennings said. “But he’s a good point guard in a great system, if I could put it like that. He should be able to get numbers, should be able to get assists with Amar’e, with `Melo, Landry Fields, J.R. Smith and all those guys. If any point guard goes there, they all should be able to get numbers. But, I mean, he’s a good player.”
Knicks forward Steve Novak said Lin isn’t showing any signs that his star is fading.
“It’s not going to disappear,” Novak said. “He’s the real deal and an even better person. It’s fun to watch. Everywhere we go, you can’t even take the kid to dinner, movies or anything. He’s a rock star.”
The game had some significance to the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Knicks came into the game holding on to the No. 8 playoff spot in the East, with the Bucks three games behind. Milwaukee’s win cuts the deficit to two.
Jennings said the Bucks definitely are paying attention to playoff scenarios.
“Of course,” Jennings said. “That’s why this was a big game.”
Even after the win, though, Drew Gooden was troubled that the Bucks couldn’t close the game out.
“It hurt us losing the one to Chicago,” Gooden said. “Tonight, we still did a terrible job trying to close the game out in the fourth. It’s like they just took the ball in at will for layups, just kind of clawed their way back into the game at will. And we can’t allow that.”
With the Bucks already leading by 13, Lin gave the ball away to Jennings, who darted down the court, spun around Baron Davis and sank an acrobatic layup to put Milwaukee up 108-93 with 7:28 left.
But the Knicks got back in the game with a 12-0 run.
Later trailing by five, Lin hit a long jumper and Davis drove for a layup to cut the lead to one with 2:45 left.
A foul sent Ilyasova to the line, and hit both free throws to put the Bucks up by three. Anthony drove for a layup on the other end, cutting the lead back to one with 52.7 seconds left.
Lin then hounded Jennings into throwing up a wild shot with the shot clock running down — but Ilyasova was there for the putback, giving the Bucks a 116-113 lead with 28.7 seconds left.
Stoudemire then tried to drive for a layup, but was called for traveling.
The Bucks then were called for a five-second violation on the inbounds play, and Anthony tried to drive for a dunk and missed. A foul call on Gooden sent Anthony to the line — enraging Bucks coach Scott Skiles — but Anthony missed the first and hit the second to cut the lead to two with 10.8 seconds left.
The Bucks got the ball in this time, and Jennings was fouled. He hit both free throws to put Milwaukee ahead by four with 9.7 left.
“We have a long way to go as a team but we have a lot of good pieces,” said Novak, a Wisconsin native who played at Marquette. “If we’re just able to blend those and figure it out, by the end of the year were going to be tough.”
Notes: Knicks guard J.R. Smith said he regrets posting a photo of a scantily clad woman on his Twitter account, which earned him some unwanted attention on the web Friday. “I didn’t know it was going to be as big deal as it is now,” he said. “I definitely regret it. It takes away from our team.” … The Bucks got back defensive stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but he had to leave the game after playing only 7:39 because his knee flared up again. … Bucks guard Shaun Livingston left the game with a left ankle injury.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)