Those around the Bucks can see the relief in Ilyasova's body language. This is the player he expects himself to be, and this is the player Bucks GM John Hammond expected when he signed him to that extension.
"It was really frustrating, especially knowing I just signed a contract and my expectation was to be really helpful to the team," Ilyasova said. "I'm really glad it's working (the) opposite way."
The Bucks hold a four-game lead over Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the East and are just 1 1/2 games behind Boston for the seventh seed. If they are going to stay in that position, or climb the ladder at all, Boylan said they need the Ilyasova of the last month and not the first one.
"We need Ersan playing at a high level," the coach said. "We need him rebounding, we need his activity. So, if he's concerned about his minutes and his scoring, it detracts from the job that we really need him to do. That's to be that guy in there who's kind of the hustle guy, chasing down balls and keeping things alive. Then he steps out and makes timely shots for us. He's a big part of any success we have."
Now in a comfort zone, Ilyasova expects the big nights to keep coming.
"It's not just minutes," he said. "It's stable. You kind of feel free on the basketball court. When you're not thinking and when you're free-minded, you just flow."
AP freelance writer Joe DiGiovanni in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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