MILWAUKEE — Larry Sanders had a career-high 24 points and 13 rebounds as Milwaukee cruised to a 131-102 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night for the Bucks’ highest scoring total in more than four years.
Monta Ellis had 19 points, a career-high 14 assists and six steals to help Milwaukee pull 1 1/2 games behind seventh-place Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Celtics lost to Minnesota on Monday.
Ersan Ilyasova added 22 points for the Bucks, J.J. Redick scored 20, and Brandon Jennings 19. Milwaukee, which had lost five of six, remained solidly in the eighth position in the East, with a six-game lead over idle Philadelphia.
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Kemba Walker scored 27 points to lead the Bobcats, and Gerald Henderson had 17.
Charlotte came in allowing 47.3 percent shooting and 103.1 points per game — second worst in the league in both categories — and it showed.
The Bucks never trailed after early in the first quarter, led 69-60 at halftime and 100-84 after the third quarter en route to their largest scoring output since a 133-99 win over Dallas on Jan. 21, 2009.
Charlotte has lost five of six and dropped to 1-15 all-time at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Offense came easy for both teams.
Sanders, coming off a then-career-high 21 points in the Bucks’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, had 16 in the first half, as the Bucks shot 54 percent (28 of 52) in the half. Milwaukee outscored Charlotte 40-35 in the second quarter.
Jennings and Ilyasova each had 15 points in the half.
The Bobcats trailed at halftime despite shooting 63 percent (22 of 35). Gordon, coming off a scoreless game against Philadelphia on Saturday, had all 14 of his points in the second quarter. Walker also had 14 in the period for Charlotte.
It was much the same in the second half, as the Bucks tallied 31 in both the third and fourth quarters and shot 51 percent (51 of 100) for the game with 32 assists. Milwaukee led by as many as 33 in the fourth quarter.
Both teams were short-handed.
Charlotte played without forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had “to take care of some personal business at home,” coach Mike Dunlap said before the game.
Kidd-Gilchrist, the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, was coming off one of his better nights as a pro, with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds against Philadelphia on Saturday. Also, center Byron Mullens missed his third straight game with a sore left ankle, center Brendan Haywood missed his ninth straight with a left foot stress reaction, and guard Ramon Sessions missed his 13th with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Milwaukee was without forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who missed the game due to an undisclosed illness.
NOTES: The Bucks’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth moved to three games. … Ilyasova, who scored 29 points against Oklahoma City on Saturday, has scored at least 20 in three straight and nine of his last 13 games. … Milwaukee’s 69 first-half points were its most in a first half this season and equaled the most points Charlotte has allowed in a first half this year. … The game got off to an odd start, as referee Bill Kennedy took an inadvertent elbow to the head from Sanders during the opening tipoff. He stayed in the game after going to one knee for a couple of minutes.