The Milwaukee Bucks aimed for history on Saturday night as they had a 10 game road win streak going into Utah, one win shy of tying the franchise record. While Giannis had one of his best games of the season, Donovan Mitchell had his best scoring game of his career and dropped 46 points to bury the Bucks in the closing minutes to take home the win, 115-111. The Bucks were heavily banged up going into this contest so fans were skeptical that they could win in a stadium that they haven’t came out on top in 17 years.
This game was on another level from the start. Milwaukee had essentially no point guard, so the starting lineup included a small forward, three power forwards, and a center. Khris Middleton was the only starter under 6′ 10″ and even he is 6′ 8″. Rudy Gobert has proven in the past that he’s a good defensive matchup on Giannis. It didn’t look like it on the first two scores of the game when Giannis powered him out of the lane to finish. An 8-0 run by the Bucks to begin the game forced a timeout from Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
Straight out of the timeout, Middleton promptly hit a three followed by a block from Brook Lopez in the paint. A pair of free throws from Donovan Mitchell got Utah on the board with less than 9 minutes to go in the first. Lopez was an absolute force in the lane with 6 blocks in the first 6 minutes of the game. Jazz fans were booing in disbelief that no fouls were called on any of them. Another timeout on the floor left Milwaukee up 20-8 with 4 minutes and change left in the first quarter. The offense had slowed down but the defensive intensity didn’t change.
We knew going into the game that the active roster for Milwaukee was extremely limited. But I don’t know who expected Christian Wood to get first quarter minutes given he hasn’t played outside the fourth quarter all season. He clearly wanted to prove he deserves the minutes and hit his first three to score the first Bucks basket in 4+ minutes. Milwaukee didn’t do much more than that the rest of the quarter and a 14 point lead had shrunk to just 3, 26-23.
Nikola Mirotic opened up the second quarter scoring with a three, his first points of the game. Utah responded with three straight buckets to tie the game at 29 to force a timeout from Coach Bud. The Jazz came out and scored 5 straight which was received well by the fans in attendance. The crowd noise peaked when Derrick Favors threw down a dunk over Ersan Ilyasova with a foul. For some reason, Milwaukee couldn’t snap out of the funk and Bud had to call another timeout with 4:46 left in the half, down 45-34. Over the past 13:07, Utah outscored the Bucks 39-14.
Everything continued to go wrong for Milwaukee. Isaiah Canaan was a complete liability on both ends of the floor. Tony Snell was injured on a play and had to be taken to the locker room. The game wasn’t out of reach by any means, but not much progress was being made on the deficit. To the relief of the fans, Tony Snell returned to the game before the end of the first half with Milwaukee trailing 53-46. Given the ice cold shooting from the Bucks, the deficit could’ve been worse and they remained hopeful for the second half. Khris led Milwaukee with 19 points on 5-14 from the field followed by Giannis with 13/8/3 in 14 minutes. Donovan Mitchell had 15 points on 4-15 shooting in a game high 19 minutes.
Brook Lopez was a defensive force in the first half with 7 blocks and he showed his offensive threat with a deep three to start the second half followed by a layup in the lane to trim the deficit to just 2 points. Giannis continued to send Gobert into the stands and tied the game at 57 to force a timeout from Snyder just 3 minutes into the half.
The Bucks’ starters continued their terror on Utah and began to build up their lead again. The gap got up to 8 before a small run from Donovan Mitchell brought it back down to 4 with 4 minutes left in the quarter. Mitchell was proving to be Utah’s only offensive option and Milwaukee had yet to find an answer for him this quarter. The game was tied with 2 minutes left but a run by the Bucks that included a Giannis three gave them the lead after the third quarter, 78-73. Giannis was up to 28 points followed by Khris with 21 and Lopez with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 blocks.
The final quarter was to determine if Milwaukee could make franchise history by tying their longest road win streak of 11 games. Tony Snell wanted to see that happen as much as anyone and hit a three to start the quarter. Giannis followed that possession with a huge jam over Gobert. Gobert went for revenge the next time down but couldn’t finish over Giannis and instead drew the foul. His foul troubles continued while Milwaukee looked like a fully healthy team an extended their lead to 15 in less than 2 minutes which forced another Jazz timeout.
Out of that timeout, Utah quickly cut the Bucks’ lead to 10 and Coach Bud called a timeout to put an end to the 7-0 run. The run continued immediately with an open dunk by Donovan Mitchell. Only 2 points were scored by the Bucks before the lead was down to 2 with 6 minutes left. Khris hit a three but that didn’t stop Utah’s momentum. Giannis was the only divider that kept a distance in the score. Anytime Mitchell tied it up, Giannis hit a shot to regain the lead. His second three of the game forced a timeout from Utah with 4 minutes left, up 3.
The lead changed 5+ times over the final 4 minutes. Donovan Mitchell put the Jazz up 4 with 1:30 left, the largest lead for either team since the last timeout. Pat Connaughton was tasked with defending Mitchell in the final minutes but he was no match for the night Mitchell was having. His three with 42 seconds remaining extended Utah’s lead to 6 and all hope looked lost for Milwaukee. But lurking in the shadows was Khris Middleton. A quick three out of the timeout brought the Bucks back within three and suddenly a defensive stop made this a possible comeback.
With 20 seconds remaining, Mitchell found Favors in the paint for a wide open layup. Khris quickly fouled to send Favors to the line to earn his points. Favors hit both which directed Giannis to drive the length of the court to draw a pair of his own free throws. Giannis hit both and Mitchell was sent to the line with 13 seconds left., up 3. Mitchell missed both and Giannis went to the line yet again. Giannis only hit one this time around and another timeout was called with less than 10 seconds.
Donovan Mitchell returned to the line after the break for a couple of free throws, making both. Khris missed a three on the other end and Giannis got to the line with just a second left. He missed both and that was the game. Utah escaped with a win at home 115-111.
Giannis led Milwaukee with 43/14/8 on 15-26 from the field and 2-3 from deep.
Khris Middleton had another stellar game with 29/9/6 and 4-8 from three.
Brook Lopez was the only other Buck to enter double digit scoring with 16 points to go with 8 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Donovan Mitchell scored his career high points with 46 on 15-32 from the floor. Derrick Favors finished with 23/18 on an efficient 10-12 shooting.
Milwaukee’s 7 game win streak and 10 game road win streak came to an end in what was a tough matchup before tip. They had to deal with Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, George Hill, Sterling Brown, and Donte DiVincenzo all injured and unavailable, leaving only Isaiah Canaan and Trevon Duval as the guard options. They were also on the second night of a back-to-back and Giannis was battling right knee soreness. Regardless, this game was winnable but Donovan Mitchell single-handedly closed this game out.
The Bucks’ lead over Toronto was cut to 2 games, still a sizable lead. Milwaukee visits Phoenix on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. to try and start another win streak.