CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles knows not to get too excited about his team's 112-92 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
There are tougher challenges ahead if his team wants to make a serious run at the playoffs.
"You know, we weren't playing the Celtics," Skiles said after the Bucks pulled within a half-game of the New York Knicks in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
They certainly weren't.
The NBA-worst Bobcats have now lost 15 games this season by 20 or more points.
Luc Mbah a Moute scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half as the Bucks scored 72 points inside the paint against the outmanned Bobcats.
"We got a lot of offensive rebounds (13) and I think our guards were good tonight, just knowing when to pass the ball and just driving in there dishing it off," Mbah a Moute said.
The Bucks had no problem exploiting the smaller Bobcats, who were playing without centre Gana Diop and forward Eddy Najera, who were injured, and the recently waived Boris Diaw.
Most of Milwaukee's shots were uncontested in the lane. The Bucks shot 53 per cent for the game.
"I thought we did a pretty good job of getting in there whether it was through a pass or an offensive rebound," swingman Mike Dunleavy said. "We just shared the ball real well. It was a big offensive night for us."
The Bucks had 31 assists, marking the fifth time in six games they've had at least 30 in a game.
"When the ball is moving and guys are knocking down shots, it's fun and it's easy," Dunleavy said. "Hopefully we can keep it up."
The Bucks won despite a season-high 29 points from Gerald Henderson.
The third-year pro from Duke was 13 of 19 from the field for the Bobcats, who have lost seven of their last nine games and are 7-38 on the season.
"It wasn't just their bigs," Henderson said. "We gave them some penetration and they ran a lot of back cuts. They just got a lot of layups we didn't cover. It was just bad night for us defensively. We'll look at the tape and make adjustments. We just kind of have to forget about this one."
Corey Maggette, who fought off a back injury and an illness this week to play against this former team, was held to 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting. The Bucks traded Maggette to Charlotte in the off-season.
The Bucks opened a 52-40 lead at halftime, outscoring the Bobcats 30-18 in the paint and outrebounding them 25-17 in the first half.
Milwaukee (22-25) took control of the game with a 15-2 run near the end of the first quarter and stretched the lead to 50-42 lead at halftime. They pushed it to 15 in the third quarter and then 25 in the fourth, continuing to dominate on the boards against a Bobcats team that simply couldn't match up defensively.
"We had no answers for them," Henderson said.
On one possession, the Bucks got four offensive rebounds before eventually cashing in on a backdoor layup off an inbounds play.
"You have to be tough-mined as well as physically tough and if you're not, those kinds of things happen," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. "You have to be experienced, too, and the majority of our guys are not experienced. We have to learn and we have to get better. That's just where we are right now."
Skiles said the key will be playing this well against better teams, particularly those in the East who are above them in the standings.
"We did what we had to do," Skiles said. "We came in and had a pretty good, all-around game. Guys shared the ball again and we executed well. We didn't have to overplay anybody and got a win. We bounced back from last night."
NOTES: Henderson is averaging 17.3 points over the last six games. ... Walker has now scored in double digits in 28 games this season. ... Gooden now has three double-doubles in his past five games.