SALT LAKE CITY — As Bojan Bogdanovic stepped to the free-throw line early in the fourth quarter, a single fan was heard.
“I love you, Bojan.”
The rest of the crowd was a little more vocal about their affection for him later on. With 1.3 seconds left on the clock and the game tied, the Jazz ran a play that left Bogdanovic wide open in the left corner.
He didn’t disappoint.
Bogdanovic nailed the shot as time expired, giving the Jazz a 103-100 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
If they didn’t already, everyone sure loves him now.
Bogdanovic finished with 33 points, five rebounds and one game-winner to lead the Jazz over the Bucks.
“I think more than anything, his toughness tonight is was what differentiated him especially in the second half,” Quin Snyder said. “He was determined and that carried over into the last possession.”
The last shot will be the one remembered, but it was far from the only big play that Bogdanovic made. With the Bucks storming back from a 20-point halftime deficit, it was Bogdanovic that answered back. He scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half, getting Jazz buckets when they needed them most.
“It’s great to have Bojan, I’m not gonna lie to you,” Donovan Mitchell said. “He’s made my life ten times easier, he’s made everyone’s life ten times easier.”
Heck, even coach Snyder’s. It was Bogdanovic that suggested altering the original final play to give him an option to bounce out to the corner. That worked out pretty well.
But as dramatic as the end was, it probably shouldn’t have gotten to that point. The Jazz led by as many as 22 points in the first half, by 20 at halftime and had an eight-point lead with 91 seconds left.
The Bucks just about overcame all of that.
Utah jumped out to a big lead by playing its best half of the year. Mike Conley had 19 of his 20 points by halftime leading a Jazz attack that, as Conley stated, really just ran variations of one set. That, combined with a dominant defense that held Giannis Antetokounmpo to just two first-half points and the Bucks to 22% shooting, gave the Jazz a 55-35 lead at the break.
“(We were) very active, very disciplined, and we didn't give almost any offensive rebounds,” said Rudy Gobert, who had eight points and 17 rebounds. “And in the third quarter, we did the opposite.”
The Bucks scored 39 points in the third quarter to cut the lead to single digits. And without some timely shots by Bogdanovic and Mitchell, who had 19 points and six assists on the night, it could have been even worse. Antetokounmpo scored 28 of his 30 points in the second half.
The Jazz looked they had the game won at halftime and when they made a big surge — fueled by a thunderous dunk and big three by Royce O’Neale — to get an eight-point advantage with just 1:31 remaining.
But after turnovers, bad possessions, and fouls, the Bucks suddenly had tied the game and had the ball with 2.3 seconds remaining.
But Gobert made the key defensive stop. He read the play perfectly, ran to the corner and forced Khris Middleton to travel.
“Every time I watch them play, they ran that play,” Gobert said. “To me, there was two options: either Kyle (Korver) was going to screen me and they were going to pass to Brook (Lopez) or Middleton was going into the corner.”
The travel gave the Jazz the ball with 1.3 seconds remaining.
Bogdanovic made those ticks count.