|23 January 2013|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Ersan Ilyasova's performances have spurred the Milwaukee Bucks' recent winning-streak |
Turkish international Ersan Ilyasova collected an impressive double-double on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 110-102 home win over the Philadelphia Sixers.
The 26-year-old forward tied his season-high 27 points, on 10-of-17 shooting from the floor, including 2-of-4 from behind the three-point arc.
He also picked up a season-high 16 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive end, and added two assists and three steals.
This inspiring Tuesday performance did not come in isolation, as the only other time Ilyasova had scored 27 points this season was in Milwaukee's previous game, a 110-104 victory at the Portland Blazers on Saturday night.
"Ersan got his groove back," his team-mate Monta Ellis said.
"I've always been a huge fan [of Ilyasova]," the 76ers' coach Doug Collins admitted. "He's a guy who can shoot the three; rebounds; he's tough; he defends."
Although these stat lines and eulogies from opponents come as no surprise to anyone who has ever seen the charismatic all-round forward on a basketball court, they were far from the norm earlier this season.
Ilyasova, coming off the best season in his NBA career last year, was simply not playing enough minutes during the first two months of the new season under Scott Skiles, a coach he had worked in harmony with, in previous years.
A fortnight ago, the Bucks parted ways with Skiles and handed the reins of the team to his assistant, Jim Boylan.
Under Boylan, the Turkish forward is a starter again and his playing time has increased accordingly; he spent 36 minutes on the court on Tuesday.
"I just knew I needed his energy and his ability to make plays when there's nothing out there," Boylan said.
"He was on top of his game tonight and when a guy is playing like that I want to keep him out there."
The Bucks are now on a three-game winning streak and have won six of their eight games under Boylan.
Ilyasova is -quite rightly- credited in local media as a major factor in this surge, which has transformed the team into a credible contender for a play-off spot again.
He is now looking much more like the player who contributed 13 points and 8.8 rebounds per game to his team last season.
"For me, [the improvement] is more mentally," Ilyasova told NBA TV on Tuesday night.
"I've got my confidence back, because after the last season I had I was kind of waiting at the beginning of this one to get more minutes and I was disappointed.
"Now, with these changes, I am more motivated."
The Bucks stand in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, with a 22-18 record.