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.”
On a night during which Rudy Gobert was ineffective, Derrick Favors had 23 points and tied a career best with 18 rebounds.
“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.
Khris Middleton scored 29 points and Brook Lopez had 16 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks for the Bucks, whose seven-game winning streak was snapped on the second night of a back-to-back.
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.
PLAYING PRIME TIME
Favors has been working back from a knee injury more than two years ago and finally feels like himself again. “It’s been a long road just getting my body back and making sure my knee’s stronger so I can do that (big dunks in traffic) again,” Favors said. “It feels great to that again.”
Favors starts but rarely finishes games. This time around, he was on the court at the end and tried to just stay focused as Mitchell was mesmerizing down the stretch.
“Once he starts making shots like that, all the attention goes to him so you get open. … You’ve just got to be ready, keeps your hands open and be ready to take that shot,” said Favors, who made all five attempts and had 13 points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Bucks: Tony Snell appeared to hurt his shoulder badly on a nasty fall in the first half. He punched a chair and kicked a sign in frustration on his way to the locker room, but then returned to the court before halftime. … The Bucks shot just 38.5 percent on 3s and 2s.
Jazz: Former Jazz greats Darrell Griffith, Mark Eaton and Mehmet Okur all attended the game … Raul Neto missed the game with a tight hamstring. … Utah scored 24 points off 15 Milwaukee turnovers.
Bucks: Visit Phoenix on Monday.
Jazz: Host New Orleans on Monday.