SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell clenched his fists with joy as confetti rained from the Vivint Arena ceiling, with his teammates also celebrating.
The cheers from the sellout crowd were deafening following the Utah Jazz’s 115-111 come-from-behind win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
After trailing by 17 points in the fourth, Mitchell posted 19 of his career-best 46 points in the last 12 minutes, with six assists and three rebounds, before being drenched with water by his teammates Naz Mitrou-Long and Thabo Sefolosha during his postgame interview with sideline reporter Kristen Kenney.
Those water bottles were seemingly the only thing that could cool him off down the stretch.
“The biggest thing for me is just staying calm, not getting too high and understanding we’ve got a game on Monday,” Mitchell said after becoming the youngest player in franchsie history to score 45 or more. “I understand that now. I’ll probably watch it a few times but not like overdo it, just staying calm and understanding that I’m not a rookie, this is … I’m not going to say regular, but I just treat it like another game and move on.”
During the second half, Mitchell went shot for shot with Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo — who posted 30 of his team-high 43 points in the second half in addition to his 14 rebounds and eight assists.
In the last decade, Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant were the only other opposing players to score at least 43 points in a regulation game, according to Elias Sports Bureau, and no other Jazz player has had 46 in a game since Paul Millsap in 2010, per StatMuse.
“Donovan was great. Donovan was special tonight,” said Jazz guard Kyle Korver. “He hit amazing shots, tough shots, clutch shots. (Derrick Favors) was just an animal, he went into hulk mode.”
As phenomenal as Mitchell’s career-best performance was, Derrick Favors was also rock solid with 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, while matching his career high of 18 rebounds and three swats.
“Derrick Favors had a beyond outstanding effort tonight,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “For a guy who doesn’t start in the second half, and that made sense with the way the game went, it also made sense with the way he played that we rode him.”
Ricky Rubio returned after missing the last game in Denver with left hamstring tightness to put up six points with three assists as the Jazz continued to play without Raul Neto (left hamstring tightness) and Dante Exum (left ankle sprain), who will be reevaluated next week.
Eric Bledsoe (back soreness), Malcolm Brogdon (right foot plantar fasciitis) and George Hill (left groin strain) also didn’t suit up for Milwaukee, but that didn’t stop the Eastern Conference’s top-ranked team from getting off to a quick start in Utah.
Milwaukee was riding a seven-game win streak, and jumped to a 16-3 lead in the first quarter with Khris Middleton going for 10 of his 29 points while Antetokounmpo scored the first six points of the game and 11 total in the period. Brook Lopez also swatted six shots in the first quarter alone and seven for the game, but the Jazz closed the quarter on a 17-6 run to trail 26-23.
The tables were reversed in the second quarter, with the Jazz outscoring Milwaukee 30-20 to take a 53-46 edge entering halftime. Mitchell posted 15 points at halftime, but Favors got the crowd hyped with a nasty one-handed jam over Ersan Ilyasova off a pick-and-roll with Joe Ingles at 7:36 where the mild-mannered big man showed rare emotion after the play — even bumping his chest and yelling to the crowd.
The Jazz would fall behind by 17 in the fourth after Milwaukee opened on a 12-0 run, before Mitchell took over with big shot after big shot. He also got to the free-throw line, shooting 11-for-14.4 comments on this story
Mitchell often receives a lot of attention for giving out sneakers and jerseys to fans, but after his latest 46-point performance, the second-year guard is carving out a special place in his home for his game-used jersey and the game ball.
Afterward he was greeted by Jazz legends Darrell Griffith and Mark Eaton before entering the locker room as he continues to make his mark in franchise history with a legion of fans rooting him on.
“They were incredible,” Mitchell said of the crowd. “It felt like we were playing OKC in Game 6 again … they’re the best fans in the league for a reason and they showed that tonight.”