MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Bucks 117, Jazz 111: Milwaukee wins in Utah for first time since 2001 with late defensive effort

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks for two of his 30 points Monday night against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena.

SALT LAKE CITY – October 30, 2001. 

The season opener in Utah was the last time the Milwaukee Bucks won a game in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, a 119-112 overtime victory over the Jazz sealed by an Anthony Mason layup off a Ray Allen feed with 21 seconds left in the extra session.

The Bucks snapped their 0-19 losing streak during that span on Monday night with a 117-111 victory over the Jazz at Vivint Arena, an effort that puts to end one of the stranger NBA records in recent memory.

Here are some interesting numbers to put that time in context:

  • Age of Bucks rookie Sandro Mamukelashvili when the Bucks last won: Two years, five months.
  • Bucks head coaches: Nine.
  • Most games played in the series: Giannis Antetokounmpo (nine).
  • Longest gap by a Bucks player between games: Nine years, 11 months (Zaza Pachulia, March 26, 2005 and Feb. 28, 2015)*
  • Average margin of defeat: 11.2 points
  • Father-son combinations: Gary Payton (2003) and Gary Payton II (2017)
  • Total Bucks players: 112

*Joel Przybilla went nine years, 10 months between games (March 28, 2003 and Feb. 6, 2013)

The Bucks’ victory not only ended the streak of losses in Utah but also will keep the franchise record of 24 straight defeats in Phoenix from 1988-2012 safe, per ESPN Stats and Information. The longest current streak of losses by a team in a city is held by Washington, which has lost 22 straight in San Antonio.

For the veterans who have been around, it was a nice thing to get off their back.

“For sure, especially for the franchise,” said Bucks forward Khris Middleton, who played in his eighth game in Utah. “And for me, I think this is the only place I haven’t won in my career. So, scratching that one off feels great. But more importantly we bounced back after a tough Golden State game (Saturday) and we beat a good team here on the road, that’s tough to play in obviously. Big picture, it’s a bigger win for us in this playoff push."

Monday was guard Jrue Holiday’s first game with the Bucks in Utah – he missed the game last season – and Antetokounmpo and Middleton told him they had never won there. But he didn’t know the losing streak stretched back to 2001.

“I didn’t know it was up to 21 but maybe that’s because it had been two years since I last heard 18 or 19, but I did know it had been up there,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “It was definitely in the back of my mind. You always want to win, but it was extra special to be able to pull it off and end it like that. It’s something, so you’d like to get it done. Definitely, definitely.”

The Bucks have now won seven of nine since the all-star break to improve to 43-26 overall and 31-9 when their Big Three of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday play together. The Jazz fell to 42-26. Milwaukee has lost back-to-back games just once when the trio play.

Defense has been erratic at times for the Bucks since the break, but the defending champions turned it on in the decisive fourth quarter, holding the Jazz to seven points in the first 6½ minutes of the closing period to flip a 93-89 deficit to a 107-100 lead.

In the final 5½ minutes, the Bucks held on to that three-possession lead with two timely baskets by Antetokounmpo and Holiday and solid defense from Jevon Carter and Holiday on the perimeter and Antetokounmpo inside.

The Jazz cut the lead to 111-109 with 1:26 to go on a pair of Mike Conley free throws, but the Jazz couldn’t get a shot off for the next minute and Middleton hit two free throws with 59.1 seconds left to make it 113-109.

“You gotta have good guards to put in front of and defend Conley, (Donovan) Mitchell, (Jordan) Clarkson," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Those three guys are just so creative and they run stuff that’s hard to guard, and (Rudy) Gobert is a great screen-setter. You really got have maximum effort and great defensive guards.

"When you put Wes (Matthews) and Jrue and Khris out there, a little bit of Jevon, a little bit of Grayson (Allen), played smaller, and those guys were good.”

Carter then clinched it with a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds left to make it 115-111 before Antetokounmpo added two final free throws with eight seconds left.

Antetokounmpo had his issues with Utah big men Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, but still scored 30 points on 12 of 24 shooting. He also pulled down 15 rebounds. Holiday added 29 points and seven assists while Middleton scored 23.

Brook Lopez played his first game since Oct. 19, logging 15 minutes and scoring six points.

“It’s a credit to his conditioning," Budenholzer said. "It feels like he could play more. It’s his first night so he’s got a lot of adrenaline, but I think he’s really worked hard to have his conditioning in a good place, his body in a good place. I thought he really helped us in that quarter. We go in at half with a pretty decent lead. I thought he was a big part of that.”

Bucks center Brook Lopez tries to block the shot of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert during the second quarter Monday night.

Mitchell scored 29 on 10 of 32 shooting for Utah, and Conley had 29 as well on 10 of 13 shooting. Gobert had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Clarkson was held to just eight points on 3 of 14 shooting.

The Jazz began the game making 10 first quarter threes but finished with just 17.

The Bucks survived that first quarter barrage of outside jumpers to stay in the game in the first half and they somehow managed to weather third quarter runs of 13-0 and 12-0 to trail the Jazz, 93-89, after three.

Utah erased a nine-point halftime deficit to go up 72-68 in the first 3 ½ minutes of the third quarter as Milwaukee went 0-for-6 from the field. Despite the Jazz run, Milwaukee stayed close with strong defense thereafter and retook the lead at 79-77 on a pair of Antetokounmpo free throws with 5:36 to go. But, the Bucks went cold again (0-for-4) and turned it over twice as the Jazz peeled off 12 straight points to go up 89-79.

The Bucks gradually reeled the Jazz in though with five made free throws and a pair of baskets from Holiday and Matthews while forcing two turnovers of their own. And this came after Antetokounmpo picked up his fourth foul with 4:47 left, sending him to the bench for the rest of the quarter.

Holiday scored the last four points of the fourth quarter and the first seven of the fourth quarter for the Bucks to keep them attached.

“I mean, well, the end of the third Khris and Giannis were out – so I don’t know if I feel it or if it’s kind of like my turn to be completely honest," Holiday said. "Then at that point (Budenholzer) kept it the same group the beginning of the fourth and from there I think I just caught a rhythm and I stayed it in the whole fourth.

I mean, you do feel it, and every player does where you kind of get into a rhythm and you know your shot’s falling and it’s going for you and you’re making plays but I feel like when Khris and Giannis were out, it’s kind of like well, either I’ve got to start making plays or get my shot going and my shot was going.”

Utah came out hitting from deep but Milwaukee withstood an early barrage of threes and tightened its defense to take a 68-59 lead into the half.

The Jazz made 10 three-pointers in 18 attempts in the first quarter but went just 1-for-8 in the second quarter as the Bucks led by as many as 12 in the second quarter. Utah didn’t exactly slow Milwaukee down on the other end after making all those threes, which allowed the Bucks to stay connected in the first quarter.

Then in the second quarter the Bucks turned up the pressure on defense – which began with the return of Lopez to start the frame. 

With Lopez roaming the paint, the Jazz made just 1 two-point basket in his first 4 ½ minutes of play. Lopez hit a three on the other end to keep Gobert from affecting shots, and the Bucks got into a rhythm offensively.

“I was just trying to make a difference however I could,” Lopez said. “(Assistant coach) Darvin (Ham) told me before the game don’t worry about stats or anything like that, just try to go out there, make a difference, have fun, and we’re just going to get better from here. That’s kind of the mindset I had going out there.”

Antetokounmpo scored six straight points to push a three-point Bucks lead to 57-48 with 6:02 to go in the half, and then consecutive threes from Portis and Holiday made it 66-53. Lopez returned for a 2:56 stretch at the end of the quarter and the Jazz made just single two-point field goal in their halfcourt offense.

Antetokounmpo scored 11 points in the second quarter and 17 for the half. Middleton had 14 and Holiday 13 with five assists. Utah was led by Mitchell’s 18 points, but he had to take 17 shots to get them. Conley added 15 while Clarkson was held to 1 of 6 shooting for three points.

The Bucks dominated in the paint (28-14) and on the break (10-5), which offset 11 Jazz points off eight Milwaukee turnovers.

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