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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell just won’t blink.
The Jazz were down 17 points in the fourth quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo was busy putting together a dominant 43-point game. And Rudy Gobert was having arguably his worst game of the season.
None of that fazed Mitchell.
The second-year star for the Utah Jazz scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead Utah to an improbable 115-111 win over the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks Saturday at Vivint Arena.
“It starts on the defensive end and just have the will to compete, regardless of the score, in every situation,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “When you do that, it doesn’t always work out, but you give yourself a chance. We put ourselves in the position when some guys made some plays.”
With 9:39 left, the Bucks led 90-73 and looked to have the game all but won. Milwaukee (48-15) had dominated the second half and scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo was a one-man wrecking crew against the Utah defense and was the main reason Gobert was limited to just 19 minutes on the night.
The Jazz (36-26) didn’t have much of an answer for the MVP candidate. But it turned out, the Bucks didn’t have much of one for Mitchell, either.
From the 8:10 mark on, the game belonged to the Jazz guard. He scored all of his 19 fourth quarter points in that stretch as the Jazz slowly saw the large Milwaukee lead shrink away.
Mitchell hit floaters, he delivered a rim-rocking one-handed slam and, with 44 seconds left, hit a deep 3-pointer over the outstretched hand of Antetokounmpo to give the Jazz a late 6-point lead — and those were just a few of the highlights of his career night.
Mitchell has been tasked with being Utah’s closer, and there have been some struggles along the way and nights that the shots didn't fall. But those helped prepare him for Saturday's contest — and really his last week of clutch shot making.
“Oh man, Donovan was great,” Kyle Korver said. “Donovan was special tonight. He hit amazing shots, clutch shots.”
Mitchell said it was the best regular season game of his young career (he had a couple of playoff performances that still top it) and it wasn’t just because he went berserk in the fourth quarter. It was because of what it took to get to that point.
“At the beginning of the game, I really wasn’t sure what I was doing,” Mitchell said.
Part of that was because Milwaukee started Antetokounmpo at point guard. That super-sized lineup led to cross matches all over the court. Antetokounmpo was guarding Ricky Rubio, but Gobert was guarding Antetokounmpo. Rubio was guarding Khris Middleton, but Middleton was guarding Mitchell — and on and on it went.
That led to a lot of success for Milwaukee. The Bucks jumped out to a 20-6 lead in the first quarter and then erased the first Jazz comeback with a 17-4 start to the second half.
“They kind of threw different looks at me,” Mitchell said. “Then as the game went on, I started talking to Joe (Ingles), ‘You got to push through, you got to push through those mistakes.’”
Mitchell pushed through them — scoring 31 points in the second half — and then had to push through one more late.
With 12.7 seconds left and the Jazz up three, Mitchell went to the line with a chance to ice the game. He missed both free throws.
“Everyone just came over and said, ‘Next play,’” Mitchell said.
The next offensive play just so happened to be him going to the line again — with another chance to ice the game. This time he hit both shots to give him a career-high 46 points and the Jazz a victory.
“I think the biggest for me is staying calm and not getting too high,” Mitchell said. “Understanding we've got a game on Monday. I'll probably watch it (Saturday’s performance) a few times, but not overdo it. I’m not a rookie, this is just, I’m not going to say regular, but just treat it like another game.”
Derrick Favors added 23 points and 18 rebounds as he filled in for the struggling Gobert. Joe Ingles finished with 14 points and eight assists for the Jazz in the win.