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MILWAUKEE — With 19 seconds left and the Jazz down two, Donovan Mitchell dribbled up the court. He waited, and then used a Bojan Bogdanovic screen to split two defenders to get inside.
Pat Connaughton's quick hands forced Mitchell to pick his dribble up above the free-throw line, forcing him to rise for a layup further away than he would have preferred.
That gave Brook Lopez enough time to get over and block the shot and help the Bucks hang on for a 122-118 win at Fiserv Forum on Monday.
Mitchell’s layup might not have went down, but just the fact that the Jazz were in that position at all was seen as a positive by head coach Quin Snyder.
Why? Consider these points:
- The Jazz were playing without Rudy Gobert.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points against them.
- Milwaukee scored 74 points in the second half.
- The Bucks led by as many as 10 in the fourth quarter.
Without the Jazz’s best player, and with the league's reigning MVP going supernova, Utah was one bucket away. So, yeah, there was plenty to feel good about in Milwaukee despite dropping to 11-6 on the season.
“To be honest with you, I think when they made a run and got a lead, the way that we held our composure and came back — that’s what I want us to hang on to,” Snyder said.
With just over six minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo dribbled into the paint and put up a hook shot. It missed. He out jumped two Jazz defenders for the rebound and tried to put it back in. That missed too. He sidestepped inside and got another rebound, and then was fouled on another shot attempt.
Even when he missed, the Jazz couldn’t stop him.
He was 17 of 31 from the field, 13 of 19 from the free-throw line, and made three 3-pointers for his new season-high of 50 points scored in a game. He scored 32 points in the second half to help the Bucks erase a nine-point Jazz lead.
Was there anything Utah could have done differently to stop him?
“I doubt it. I doubt it,” Mike Conley said. “We threw everything at him. We threw everybody at him. We threw double teams — he made plays out of double teams. He made plays out of the post. When he starts making the 3-point shot, it really makes it tough. I was proud of the way we defended. We tried rebounding, tried boxing out; he was too tall, too long at some points of the game.”
And yet, the Jazz had a chance to steal the game.
Utah went 21 of 45 from the 3-point line, had six players in double figures, and had big performances off the bench from Joe Ingles (15 points, five rebounds, five assists), Emmanuel Mudiay (eight points in the fourth quarter to help pull the Jazz back into it) and Georges Niang (13 points on 5-of-11 shooting).
Without Gobert, it was a team effort — and it just about worked.
Bogdanovic, who finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the night with 1:15 remaining. And on the next possession, Mitchell, who had 20 on the night, spun inside for a floater. That quick 5-0 run put the Jazz down just two and, after forcing another stop, they had a chance to pull even with it.
Snyder chose not to call a timeout on the play, hoping to catch the Milwaukee defense off balance and give the Jazz some options. Mitchell knew that Bogdanovic was hot, so the thought was to maybe get him to slip the screen and set up for a 3-pointer to beat the Bucks again. Or maybe get downhill and into the paint and make a play out of that.
Milwaukee pretty much took Bogdanovic out of the play as he slipped out of the screen; and while Mitchell could have made a read to Jeff Green, who had made three 3-pointers, standing in the corner, but he opted for the layup. It was a fine shot. The best? Maybe. Maybe not.
“There's a lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas,” Mitchell said of the final possession. “I think, for starters, we should have attacked earlier … A little indecision, but it's November so, you know, when the time comes (again) you understand we've been in these situations. We played well, but the fact that it came down to that last possession, even though they made a little push and (Antetokounmpo) had 50. I think that's a good sign.”