BY EDDIE DILWORTH
The Milwaukee Bucks just wouldn't go away.
Every time the Cleveland Cavaliers distanced themselves from Milwaukee Friday night, the Bucks answered with a run of their own to keep the contest close. In the end, Milwaukee (12-14) exited Quicken Loans Arena with a 113-112 overtime victory that surely left a bad taste in the Cavaliers' mouths.
"Very disappointing loss guys," Scott said to the media after the game. "Our guys continued to battle, played their butts off, so it's just a disappointing loss."
Disappointment came in the fact that the Cavs (10-15) led by double-digits in each of the first three quarters and by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, Milwaukee thwarted every Cavaliers attempt to pull away.
After Cavs forward Antawn Jamison sank two free throws, Cleveland led 102-100 with 2:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the last time the Cavs would enjoy a lead in the contest. Each team traded defensive stops until Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute tied the game at 102 with two free throws of his own as 50 seconds remained in regulation.
The Cavs were unable to score on their next possession, leaving Milwaukee with a chance to take the lead. However, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings missed a 10-foot jump shot with 4.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Cavs forward Antawn Jamison was fouled as he rebounded Jennings' miss and was sent to the charity stripe with 3.7 seconds to play and a chance to break the 102 tie. Instead, Jamison, who produced his third-straight season high in points, missed both free throws and Cleveland eventually had to settle for overtime.
The Cavs never led in overtime, but they had several chances to take the contest. Milwaukee's largest lead in overtime was four points, but the Cavs were never able to get over the hump.
Jamison spoke about his late free throws.
"Pretty much the deciding factor," Jamison said. "If I hit my two and as a team we shoot better, maybe the outcome is different," Jamison said after the Cavs shot 18-of-32 from the free throw line. "Saying that, we still went into overtime and put ourselves in a position to win, but these are games you just have to find a way to get it done."
Despite Jamison's two late misses, he produced his best game of the season. The Cavs veteran finished the game with a season-high 34 points and 11 rebounds. 18 of Jamison's points came in the third quarter and gave the Cavs a realistic shot at winning.
"If (Antawn) doesn't play the way he played tonight, we don't even have a chance," Scott said. "We don't have a chance."
Already without Kyrie Irving, who is recovering from a concussion, and Anthony Parker, who continues to rehabilitate is strained lower back, the Cavs can't afford additional players exiting the lineup. That's precisely what happened though when Anderson Varejao left the game with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter after spraining his wrist. X-rays on his wrist were negative, but Varejao was not able to return.
Milwaukee took advantage of Varejao's absence by outscoring Cleveland 12-4 in the paint in the fourth quarter.
"Without Varejao's activity, they were having a tough time once we got Antawn a little bit under control late in the game," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said.
Skiles was ejected late in third quarter for arguing a foul called on forward Mike Dunleavy.
"I felt like it might get us going a little bit," Skiles said, nearly admitting he got tossed on purpose. "Sometimes you do that and it works; sometimes it doesn't. I'm not saying it (worked) tonight, but I'm happy the guys were able to hang in there."
Cavs guard Daniel Gibson once again started for Parker and finished with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Ramon Sessions started in place of Irving and finished with 12 points, a season-high 16 assists and five rebounds.
Cleveland forward Alonzo Gee chipped in 18 points off the bench while Tristan Thompson returned to the Cavaliers lineup after missing six of his last nine games with an ankle sprain. Thompson scored five points and recorded a career high 13 rebounds.
"We knew the game wasn't going to be over just because we had double-digit leads," Scott said. "They were going to keep fighting and that was what we expected from them.
Jennings led the Bucks with 24 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Former Cavalier Drew Gooden added 19 points and six rebounds.
The Cavs have to forget this one quickly as they face the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get the win tonight, but we've got tomorrow," Thompson said. "It's a quick turnaround, so we've got tot be ready."
email@example.com or follow Eddie on Twitter @EDilworth