With the game on the line in Milwaukee on Sunday night, Donovan Mitchell stepped up to bring the Utah Jazz home victorious.
The All-Star guard ended the Bucks’ late surge by scoring two straight buckets after the defending champions had whittled a 17-point deficit down to just four with 1:39 left. Mitchell ended up scoring 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help Utah bounce back from its first loss of the season in Chicago the previous night.
“We really executed when we needed to,” Mitchell said. “You look at tonight and you look at the way last night went — two polar-opposite situations. I think there were times Chicago really amped up the pressure, and we weren’t ready for it. (The Bucks) did it again tonight, and we were ready for it. They’re NBA champions. They’re not going to just go down 15 and call it a day.”
Utah’s opponent in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night, the Sacramento Kings, would have won a third straight road game if their star had made the clutch shots instead of the Mavericks’ superstar in Dallas. But Luka Doncic hit a key 3-pointer from the logo on a night the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox struggled.
Fox only hit 5-of-16 shots for 14 points in that loss. On the season, he’s just shooting 37.7 percent overall and 17.1 percent from 3-point range.
Kings coach Luke Walton isn’t concerned about Fox.
“We went on two big win streaks last year and he was putting us on his back for a lot of those,” Walton said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s done it before. He’s passionate. He cares. He wants to win, so there’s no doubt in my mind he, and us, will get there.”
The Kings will need all the help they can get to reverse things in Utah, where they conclude a four-game road swing. The Jazz are off to one of their best starts in years and have defeated Sacramento five times in a row.
Utah’s last victory against the Kings came at Golden 1 Center a week and a half ago. In that 110-101 victory, Mitchell scored 27 points while Rudy Gobert contributed 17 points and 20 rebounds.
That win also showed the Jazz they can handle the pressure of a team playing small ball against them in an effort to diminish the advantages of the 7-foot-1 Gobert. Sacramento used a smaller lineup in the final minutes while trying to rally.
“That’s going to be a consistent thing we see,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That was the stretch where we got stops. The story of the game was how we defended late.”