Williams hit a 15-foot jumper in the face of Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings as time expired to give Cleveland an 83-81 victory Wednesday night, snapping the Cavaliers' three-game losing streak and giving them the kind of moment James routinely delivered.
Williams, who finished with 25 points, drove left on Jennings before hitting his step-back jumper as the horn sounded. Williams then ran and jumped up on the scorer's table to celebrate hitting a winning shot against the team that traded him to the Cavs.
The last-second shot sent a holiday crowd into a frenzy.
Jennings wasn't so moved.
"It was a lucky shot," Jennings said. "That's all I'll say about it -- just a lucky shot."
Keyon Dooling scored 18 points for the Bucks, who dropped their fourth straight.
With a daunting schedule ahead, the Cavaliers were desperate for a win. They were embarrassed Tuesday night in Indiana, a loss that caused coach Byron Scott to demand that his players -- especially his starters -- show more urgency before their season slipped away.
It wasn't pretty, but the Cavs found a way. Williams pulled them through.
"It was almost survival mode," Williams said. "We needed to win this game and get on a good slide and feel good about ourselves."
Playing with a sprained right thumb, Williams scored Cleveland's final eight points as the Cavs avoided dropping to 2-5 at home. With James now in Miami, the Cavs are lacking a go-to player they can count on to take the big shots in the clutch.
Williams believes he can at least partially fill James' sneakers.
"There's a lot of pressure to take those shots," Williams said. "You got to be willing to take 'em and make 'em. I definitely got to be the guy who makes plays. I'll accept that role. Somebody has to be that aggressive guy every single night. We need that one guy. With me having the ball, the team will follow. I just got to set the tone."
Cleveland's final possession was set up by a turnover by Milwaukee's Corey Maggette with 23 seconds left. The Cavs then set up a play for Williams, who was fouled with 5.3 seconds left. Off the inbounds play, Williams held the ball for a moment near half-court, prompting Cavaliers fans to scream for him to hurry with the clock dwindling quickly.
But Williams knew exactly what he was doing and calmly knocked down his jumper, the biggest one for Cleveland all season.
It was a brutal all-around game for Jennings, who scored just three points on 1-of-10 shooting. John Salmons had 14 points and Maggette 10 for Milwaukee, which led by 11 in the third quarter but gave up 31 points in the period to let the Cavs catch them.
"We were a little bit soft on both ends," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "They got back in it. We have to assume just because we're up, we're not going to blow them out. When plays need to be made and when we really need to execute, we're just kind of milling around and not being real professional about it.
"As a result, we're 5-9 and that's one of the main reasons why."
The Bucks were without starting center Andrew Bogut, who sat out because of back spasms that first flared up last weekend. An MRI did not show any significant damage and Skiles believes his big man will be back by this weekend.
Williams scored 13 points and the Cavs, who were 0 for 5 from long range in the first half, made four 3s in the third quarter to cut into Milwaukee's lead, pulling to 68-65 entering the fourth.
After similarly slow starts when he was with New Jersey and New Orleans, Scott is staying patient in his first year with the Cavaliers, who are still adjusting to his system and learning to play different roles without James around to do it all.
"I know it's a process," Scott said. "I know that it takes time. I know it's going to take time for us on both ends of the floor to really understand exactly what I want done. So I don't jump the gun because I know everybody's learning curve is a little bit different. Patience is something very needed in this situation."
Jennings is 12 of 47 from the field in his last three games. ... Bucks F Carlos Delfino missed his seventh straight game with a neck injury. The team said he was evaluated Wednesday by a neuropsychologist, who determined Delfino is "90 percent free of concussion-like symptoms." Without any setbacks, Delfino could return to normal basketball activity in two weeks. ... Scott is hosting Thanksgiving dinner at his home for Cleveland's coaches and some players. So, what's on the menu? "What's not?" Scott said. ... James' return to Cleveland is one week away.