CLEVELAND (AP) — Scott Skiles knew the Bucks needed a spark.
When none of his players stepped up, Milwaukee’s coach ignited things himself.
Skiles got himself ejected on purpose, picking up two quick technical fouls in the third quarter, and the Bucks rallied for a 113-112 win in overtime Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without rookie Kyrie Irving and lost center Anderson Varejao to a sprained wrist.
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“I felt like it might get us going a little bit,” Skiles said of his strategy to get thrown out. “Sometimes you do that and it works. Sometimes you do it and it doesn’t. I’m not saying it did tonight. I’m just happy the guys hung in there and we got it done.”
Brandon Jennings had 24 points, including a big layup in overtime, and eight assists for the Bucks, who trailed by 10 late in the third period — right after Skiles was tossed.
Drew Gooden scored 19 points and made two free throws with 4.4 seconds left in OT for Milwaukee, which is 5-2 in its past seven road games after an 0-8 start.
Antawn Jamison had a season-high 34 points and 11 rebounds, but the Cleveland forward missed two free throws — after a foul underneath on Gooden — with 3.7 seconds to go in regulation and the game tied.
“That’s tough,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said of Jamison’s late miscues. “But if `Twan doesn’t play the way he played, we don’t even have a chance.”
Jamison scored seven straight points and nine overall as the Cavaliers closed the third quarter with a 12-4 run to take an 85-77 lead into the fourth.
During Cleveland’s run, Skiles got run.
He had been waiting for the right moment to motivate his team, and when the officials didn’t call a foul when Gooden was hit on a drive, Skiles went to work.
The volatile coach stormed onto the floor, complaining to referee John Goble and punching the air with his fist before he was ejected with 2:46 left in the period and the Bucks down seven.
“Usually when Scott gets a tech, he might get another one,” Jennings said. “Sometimes that fires a team up, it gets guys really wanting to win.”
Ramon Sessions added 16 assists in his second start in place of Irving, who missed his second straight game with a concussion.
The Cavaliers went just 4 of 14 from the field and 2 of 6 from the line in the final 8:04.
Gooden scored Milwaukee’s first four points in OT, and after the Cavs pulled to 108-106, Jennings drove the lane and dropped in his layup over rookie Tristan Thompson. Jennings later split a pair of free throws, keeping Cleveland’s hopes alive, but Alonzo Gee made just 1 of 2 foul shots for the Cavs to make it 111-109 with 5.2 seconds left.
Gooden was fouled and made his two free throws to give the Bucks a four-point lead before Gee drained a 3-pointer at the horn to close the scoring between two teams that could be in the mix for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
“It was a crazy game,” Jennings said. “We played horrible, but we got the win.”
On Thursday, Jennings, who was miffed about not being named an All-Star reserve, caused some angst among Bucks fans by saying in an interview with ESPN.com that he was already doing his homework on big-market teams. He’s eligible for free agency in two years.
Before the game, Jennings tried to clarify his comments.
“It’s nothing to be worried about,” said Jennings, who is under contract through next season. “It kind of got blown out of proportion a little bit. I never said I was leaving. After being in this a couple years, I understand the business of basketball.
“I’m still going to be here playing hard every night and my focus is to get into the playoffs.”
Skiles said he isn’t thinking about Jennings’ future.
“It’s a long time before that (free agency) would happen,” Skiles said. “He’s still on his rookie deal. The system is the system. The players have a right to operate within the system. It doesn’t bother me what he said. Players have options and the teams have options. If people don’t like the system they probably should have changed it.”
Irving missed his first game as a pro Wednesday after being diagnosed with concussion symptoms shortly before tip-off against the Clippers. He will also sit out Saturday’s home game against Philadelphia, and won’t play again until next Wednesday against Indiana — at the earliest.
Under the league’s new concussion guidelines, players are not permitted to do any physical activity until their symptoms go away completely. Irving complained of a headache earlier this week. The 19-year-old did nothing on Friday but watch the game from the end of Cleveland’s bench smartly dressed in a charcoal gray suit instead of his usual white No. 2 jersey.
Already without their best player, the Cavs lost Varejao early in the second half with a sprained right wrist. The Cavs said X-rays were negative on the center, who has been playing at an All-Star level. Cleveland can’t afford to be without him for long.
Varejao left the arena with a brace on his wrist. Scott said the team will know more Saturday about his condition.
NOTES: Varejao wasn’t upset or disappointed that he wasn’t selected for the All-Star game. His statistics — 11 points and 11.8 rebounds per game — warranted consideration but he wasn’t picked by coaches. “I didn’t start the year trying to make the All-Star team,” he said. “I want to win games and make the playoffs.” … Cavs G Anthony Parker missed his sixth straight game with a lower back strain. … Bucks backup F Larry Sanders was a late scratch with an unspecified illness. … Thompson returned after missing six of the previous nine games with a sprained ankle.