I thought we were incredibly unselfish and offensively we were connected trying to help each other. —Jazz coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — Rising Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was the talk of the Salt Lake City media ahead of Milwaukee’s lone trip to Vivint Arena Saturday.
After missing Wednesday’s road victory in Phoenix with right knee soreness, everyone was wondering if he’d play or not against the Utah Jazz.
Well, the Greek Freak did. And he lost.
Utah used a record-setting performance to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 121-108.
“I thought we were incredibly unselfish and offensively we were connected trying to help each other,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “When you do that, you have a better chance of having a good shooting night. We obviously did that.”
Led by rookie Donovan Mitchell’s 24 points, four rebounds and four assists, the Jazz set a new franchise record with 18 made 3-pointers on 56.2 percent shooting.
Mitchell’s six threes also set the Jazz rookie record, as he went 6 for 10 in 29 minutes.
“We had a great practice yesterday,” Mitchell said. “We came out in our shootaround with smiles having fun, and I think that’s the way we want to play.
“It’s tough when we lose a few games in a row, everybody’s down, but we’ve just got to keep the positive attitude like we have been and I think that’ll be our biggest factor in playing with happiness and having fun.”
In addition to the superb shooting night, Utah also tied another season-high with 31 assists while breaking out its golden Nike “Statement” uniforms.
Antetokounmpo went off for 27 points and 13 rebounds, but the Jazz were committed to a community defensive effort in slowing him down, starting with Jonas Jerebko and Thabo Sefolosha.
Midway through the third quarter, Derrick Favors even denied Antetokounmpo at the rim with a massive rejection. Antetokounmpo, 22, entered the game averaging career-bests in scoring (29.7), rebounding (10.3) and blocks (1.9) in his fifth season.
“That’s a tough shot to try to block him coming in getting ready to try to dunk the ball,” said Favors, who also grabbed six rebounds. “It’s just a play that I always (try to) make that I am capable of doing, so I just wanted to show I am capable of still doing that.”
From the opening half, the Jazz were as efficient as they’ve been all season, with 17 first-half assists, 55.8 percent shooting and 52.9 percent from beyond the arc to lead 64-57 at the break.
Milwaukee’s defense ranks among the top five in the league in forcing turnovers, so the Jazz offense knew it had to attack the Bucks' length and quickness with great poise and unselfishness.
Utah only finished with 10 turnovers as Rodney Hood (21 points), Derrick Favors (16 points) and Joe Ingles (15 points) helped spread the load by shooting with confidence and allowing the bigs — Favors and Ekpe Udoh — to make smart plays in the middle of the court.
Ingles also registered a career-high nine assists.
“It started on defense,” Hood said. “We got stops, especially in the second half and third quarter, and we got in transition and found each other.”
The Bucks (9-9) haven’t won a road game in Utah since Oct. 30, 2001. Utah (9-11) has now won seven straight against Milwaukee, including a series sweep last season.
New Bucks addition Eric Bledsoe ended with 18 points and seven assists, while Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon came off the bench to combine for 37 points.
But Mitchell stole the show down the stretch with 10 fourth-quarter points. Near the eight-minute mark of the fourth, he set Antetokounmpo up for a nifty spin cycle off a crossover, then finished with a right-handed layup to send more than 17,000 fans in frenzy.
The Jazz will return home Tuesday to host the Denver Nuggets at 8 p.m. in Vivint Arena.
“It shows the potential that we have,” said Sefolosha, who ended with 11 points and four rebounds off the bench. “Everybody’s feeling good about themselves right now and we’ve got a lot of confidence. We know we’ve got a group that can win every game, we’ve just got to show it.”