It was "good" Larry Sanders on Thursday night when the Los Angeles Lakers showed up at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

That is as opposed to "bad" Larry Sanders who lost his cool and was ejected three times in a six-game span earlier this month.

What a difference a productive Sanders makes to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 6-foot-11 center scored a career-best 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Bucks' 113-103 victory over the Lakers. Sanders embraced the challenge while battling Lakers big man Dwight Howard.

Now if Sanders can channel this performance into consistent play, it will help the Bucks immensely as they finish the regular season and head into the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Bucks are getting closer to clinching a playoff spot, holding a magic number of four over Philadelphia.

"Larry was really focused on the game," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said of the effort against the Lakers. "He and I talked before the game. He's stepping up. That's what I want him to do.

"He's improving in all kinds of areas. The thing about Larry is that he really cares. Sometimes he can be a little bit emotional, but I don't mind that as long as it is directed in the right way."