SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Donovan Mitchell plays best when he feels free and just lets his instincts take over.
Down 17 in the 4th quarter to the NBA’s best team Saturday night, Mitchell turned to his Jazz teammates and said: “We’ve got nothing to lose now. Let’s go!”
Mitchell scored a career-high 46 points and led Utah back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 115-111 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
“You take certain risks that maybe you don’t take when you are up 17. But we made the right plays and we got stops,” said Mitchell, who said it was probably his best regular-season game of his NBA career.
Mitchell scored 17 in the final 8:10, including a 28-foot jumper with 43.7 seconds left to put Utah up 111-105. Mitchell could have made the game a bit less suspenseful, but missed two free throws with a three-point lead with 12.7 seconds left. He came back and made two foul shots with 8.6 seconds remaining.
“My teammates were saying, `We need you for these two free throws. Forget about what happened,”‘ Mitchell said. “When you have your teammates backing you like that, you feel confident.”
But Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had been brilliant all night and had 43 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes, also missed three free throws in the final 10 seconds.
“Down the stretch they were making shots and we just couldn’t get a stop,” Antetokounmpo said. “That was playoff basketball.”
“He was the real MVP of the game,” Mitchell said.
Joe Ingles had 14 points and eight assists for the Jazz, who won their fourth straight.
In an incredible game of runs, the Jazz made the plays down the stretch to outlast the team with the best record in the league. Utah has won 17 consecutive games against the Bucks at home.
While Antetokounmpo sat in the fourth quarter, the Jazz went on 17-2 run on the strength of Mitchell’s drives to the basket. It was back and forth the rest of the way.
Antetokounmpo relished going against Gobert, the reigning defensive player of the year, in space but also often initiated the offense and played the ballhandler role on the pick-and-roll.
“He kicked my (butt),” Gobert said.
Antetokounmpo scored or assisted on the first 15 points of a 17-2 spurt as the Bucks extended a 73-71 lead to a 90-73 advantage.
Malcolm Brogdon was out with plantar fasciitis and Eric Bledsoe was a late scratch because of a bad back, so Antetokounmpo started at point guard even though he was originally being listed as questionable with right foot soreness.
Antetokounmpo powered a 23-4 run bridging the second and third quarters to put the Bucks back in front, 64-57. Time after time, the Greek big man bullied Utah’s vaunted front line as he drove the lane and finished at the rim.
Facing one of the tallest lineups in NBA history with the five Bucks averaging more than 6-foot-10, the Jazz fell behind 11-0 and didn’t score until Mitchell hit a pair of free throws with 8:41 left in the first quarter. Lopez had six blocked shots in the first six minutes of the contest as the Bucks led by as many as 14.
“They were attacking the rim really hard and we did a great job of protecting the paint,” Lopez said.
Utah led 53-46 lead at halftime.
Antetokounmpo played without restriction at Los Angeles on Friday after sitting out with right knee soreness on Monday at Chicago and being limited to 24 minutes on Wednesday at Sacramento.