MILWAUKEE - It's been an up-and-down season for Ersan Ilyasova, but his season-high 21-point, 12-rebound performance Friday in the Milwaukee Bucks' 108-93 victory over Charlotte may be the latest sign that a turnaround is underway.
Ilyasova finished second in the Most Improved Player voting last season after averaging 13.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 60 games, good enough to earn a five-year, $40 million contract from Milwaukee. But through the Bucks' first 11 games this season, Ilyasova had scored just 50 points and grabbed 53 rebounds, losing his starting job.
In his last two games, though, Ilyasova has averaged 19 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 14-of-29 from the field.
"He's looked comfortable out there," Milwaukee head coach Scott Skiles said. "He caught the ball and shot it when he was open, he was in the paint hustling for loose balls. He's a very effective player."
A newcomer to the Bucks' starting lineup, Marquis Daniels, also put together a solid effort for the second straight game, following a 12-point performance Wednesday at San Antonio with 18 points and six rebounds on Friday.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Daniels said. "They kept telling me to look to shoot the ball, look to score and it opened things up for the other guys. That's all I was trying to do, be aggressive."
Along with Ilyasova and Daniels, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Jennings also added eight assists. The Bucks shot 39.1 percent from the field but were good behind the arc, hitting 6 of 14 three-point attempts.
Conversely, the Bobcats were awful from three-point range, connecting on just 3 of 13 attempts. They also struggled at the free-throw line, missing 14 of 32, and were outrebounded, 59-45.
Gerald Henderson led Charlotte with 19 points, and Kemba Walker had 16 as the Bobcats lost their sixth consecutive game, leading Charlotte head coach Mike Dunlap to consider possible changes to his lineup moving forward.
"One of the things we demand is playing hard and playing with discipline," Dunlap said. "If there's a continued letdown in areas of knowing your job and doing your job, I would say those chairs are hot. Right now, it is too emotional, and you don't make those kind of decisions."
Unlike the teams' last meeting, when the Bobcats rallied from 11 down over the final seven minutes for a 102-98 victory Nov. 20 in Charlotte, the Bucks were in complete control, nearly from the tip.
Milwaukee took a 7-6 lead on Ellis' layup with 7:31 to play in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead, going ahead by as many as 19. Charlotte shot just 37 percent in the first two quarters and trailed, 58-40, at the half.
"We just didn't come out with a lot of energy tonight," Henderson said. "I think when you play a team like Milwaukee, with really good guards, at home, you have to match that energy. It's tough to come back when you're down big, especially on the road."
The lead grew to 26 points in the third quarter on an Ilyasova three-pointer that made it 83-57 with 2:11 to play in the period. Charlotte cut into the deficit in the fourth, when Skiles gave the floor to his reserves, including Drew Gooden, who had not appeared in a game this season.
NOTES: Since joining the league in 2004, the Bobcats are 1-14 in Milwaukee and trail in the overall series 9-21... The Bucks were without key reserves Mike Dunleavy Jr. (bruised left knee) and Beno Udrih (sprained right ankle) ... Since starting the season 7-5 - tying their victory total from last season - the Bobcats have lost six straight... Since starting the season 6-2, the Bucks have gone 2-7 heading into the game against the Bobcats... Milwaukee's Larry Sanders had five blocks Friday and has 28 blocks over the last five games, compared to 27 for Milwaukee's opponents ... A moment of silence was observed before the game in memory of Rick Majerus, who was an assistant coach with the Bucks in the 1986-87 season.