DENVER -- It all fell apart in the final quarter.
The Milwaukee Bucks were riding a career-best night by backup center Samuel Dalembert and held a seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter against the streaking Denver Nuggets.
But the Nuggets turned up the defensive pressure and came away with a 112-104 victory Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center, their seventh in a row.
The Bucks (25-22) could only lament a wasted opportunity as they headed to Utah to meet the Jazz on Wednesday night.
Dalembert scored a career-high 35 points, sinking his first nine shots and piling up 21 points by halftime.
Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson each had 22 points to lead the Nuggets (31-18).
The Bucks led, 66-51, at halftime and still held an 86-79 lead entering the final period.
"We didn't execute well," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "You've got to credit their switching defense. They were really aggressive and they played small the whole second half.
"That caused a little problem for us. I like to try to stay big and make them pay for it a little bit. But then the game was starting to slip away from us so we had to readjust and match up to them a little bit more."
Denver finished the game on a 19-4 run after trailing, 100-93.
Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings made two crucial turnovers in the final minutes and Monta Ellis made one as Denver took control.
"Just some costly turnovers from myself," said Jennings, who finished with seven turnovers. "I usually don't turn the ball over like that in the last minutes.
"It was just stupid turnovers. We weren't able to get a good shot and it seemed like we were panicking a little bit. We've just got to bounce back."
With the Bucks trailing, 104-103, Ellis lost the ball on a drive and Andre Iguodala fed Lawson for a fast-break layup with 1 minutes 37 seconds left.
After a 20-second timeout by the Bucks, Jennings lost the ball as Corey Brewer made the steal and fed Iguodala for a dunk with 1:27 left.
Another Jennings turnover led to a layup by Gallinari, giving Denver a 110-104 lead with 46.6 seconds remaining.
The Bucks also got a major scare in the fourth quarter when starting center Larry Sanders went down hard on his back and right hip with 4:41 left and had to be helped off the court. Sanders was contesting a dunk attempt by Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried.
Initial X-rays showed "nothing severe," Sanders said.
"I was just trying to protect that rim as much as I can," said Sanders, who was at his locker after the game. "We collided in the air and I couldn't catch myself.
"Me jumping straight up and him coming full speed, you're usually at the losing end of that."
Dalembert eclipsed his previous career best of 27 points set with Sacramento in 2011. He sank 17 of 21 shots and also had a game-high 12 rebounds.
"Today the shots were falling for me and I just kept going with the flow," Dalembert said. "I wasn't forcing anything. I was just letting the game come to me and taking good shots.
"I felt this about three games ago in a similar situation. Today it was one of those games."
Four Bucks players scored 12 points apiece -- Jennings, Ellis, Sanders and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
But Ellis was 6 for 21 from the field and Jennings was 5 for 15.
The Bucks were sizzling in the first half, hitting 31 of 51 shots to connect at a 61 percent clip.
Dalembert finished the half 10 of 11 for 21 points, eclipsing his previous season best of 15 points set in November against New Orleans.
The Bucks backup center worked free in the paint for tips and sank his jumper. He had four offensive rebounds and scored even after the shot he missed when he grabbed the rebound.
Dalembert did all that damage in 9 minutes 29 seconds of play.
"You don't see many performances like that from big guys in the league anymore," Boylan said. "Very rarely does a guy put up those kind of numbers.
"Sam came out and was hitting his shot. He can make that 15- to 18-foot shot. And he had activity around the basket. Hopefully he can build on that and keep moving."
Sanders added 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks in the half while Jennings had 10 points, eight assists and two steals.
But the Bucks sputtered at the start of the third quarter as Denver went on a 7-0 run, sparked by a Gallinari three-pointer.
The Nuggets quickly cut their deficit to 68-65 on two free throws by Gallinari with 8:39 left in the quarter.
But Dalembert continued his scoring spree and eclipsed his career high late in the quarter with a turnaround jumper, giving him 29 points.
A jumper by Beno Udrih gave the Bucks an 86-79 lead after three quarters.
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