ST. FRANCIS — The Milwaukee Bucks are breathing a little bit easier.
A magnetic resonance imaging test on Ersan Ilyasova’s right wrist was negative. Ilyasova, who has been the Bucks’ best all-around player since the middle of the season, injured his wrist while landing hard on the floor in a game against Denver Monday.
Ilyasova had his wrist checked out Thursday and was at practice Friday morning at the Cousins Center.
“I have a deep bruise,” said Ilyasova, whose wrist is slightly swollen.
Ilyasova, who scored at least 20 points in nine of the last 17 games — including a pair of 29-point outings — worked with Bucks assistant coach Bill Peterson for approximately 20 minutes after a team film session. Ilyasova spent most of the time working on his perimeter shot.
Ilyasova has been the Bucks’ best perimeter shooter this season, connecting on 44 percent of his 3-point attempts this season.
Ilyasova, who has an elastic wrap on his wrist, was delighted to know he didn’t have a serious injury. At the same time, he acknowledged he’s still having some issues with the wrist.
“I’m still having a little pain,” Ilyasova said. “I don’t know how it’ll affect my shooting. We’ll see what happens.”
Ilyasova made it perfectly clear he’ll start Game 1 Sunday night against the Miami Heat in an Eastern Conference first-round series at Miami.
“Whatever it takes to play, I’ll do it,” Ilyasova said.
KARL WEIGHS IN: The last time the Bucks advanced beyond the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs was in 2001.
That’s when the Bucks, led by the “Big Three” of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell, advanced to the Conference Finals and came within one game of reaching the Finals.
The coach of that team was George Karl, now the coach of the Denver Nuggets. Karl was asked earlier this week what he thought the Bucks needed to do to be competitive against the Heat, the reigning NBA champions.
“You got to have defenders,” Karl said. “You got to give them different looks and you got to score on them; you got to attack them.
“If you’re going to play a low-possession game against them, I don’t think it’ll work. They’re too good for that. I think a faster team, a quicker team has more of a chance of beating them than one that plays a possession game.”
The Bucks and Heat played each other three times during the regular season. The Heat won 113-106 on Nov. 21 in Miami and 107-94 on March 17 in Milwaukee. The Bucks beat the Heat 104-85 on Dec. 29 in Milwaukee.
Karl contends the Bucks will have to push the ball at every opportunity, especially like they did in their sole triumph over the Heat. In that game, the Bucks got off 98 shots, making 40 of them. In contrast, the Heat took only 76 shots, making 33.
“I think that’s what they’ve done in the past; that’s where they’ve had success,” Karl said of the Bucks’ uptempo style.
BIG PROBLEMS: The Bucks have played reasonably well against the powerful Heat. Bucks coach Jim Boylan said it could be because of the Heat’s rather unimposing frontline.
“We struggle more against the big, power teams,” Boylan said. “They have three of the top 15 players in the league (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh), but they’re not a power, physical interior team.”
INJURY UPDATE: Bucks center Larry Sanders, who sat out the last four games with a sore back, said he’s a go for Game 1. Ditto for Brandon Jennings, who has a sore foot, and Marquis Daniels, who has had some leg problems.
PLAYOFF NEWBIES: Four Bucks will be making their first playoff appearance. They are Gustavo Ayon, John Henson, Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh.
J.J. Redick will be making his seventh straight playoff appearance, the most of any Buck. Daniels has the next most-playoff appearances with five.
YOU DON’T SAY: Sanders is a highly-emotional player and ranks among the league leaders in technical fouls. Sanders knows keeping his poise in the emotionally-charged playoffs will be a challenge for him. Thus, he plans to write Bible verses on his hand. Quippped Sanders: “There’s a lot of verses.”
* Monta Ellis has shown he can score with the best of them. In fact, Ellis has recorded the Bucks’ three highest-scoring games this season with 39-, 38- and 37-point performances. Said Jennings: “He’s a guy who can get hot. When he’s got it going, he’s got it going.”
* On paper, at least, the Bucks-Heat series is a colossal mismatch. Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy, always a straight shooter, admits the Bucks face an uphill battle against the Heat: Said Dunleavy: “I don’t know where our advantages are.”
* Jennings, at an awards banquet Thursday night in Milwaukee, said: “I’m real confident. I’m sure everybody is writing us off, but I see us winning the series in six (games).’’ To which Heat forward Chris Bosh responded, “If they already had our attention, now they have more of our attention.’’