Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly didn’t enjoy suffering a 129-115 road loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena on Friday night, but he couldn’t help but admire how “simple” the game seemed to them. game.
More importantly, the Jazz earned their respect: Antetokounmpo said they are the “best team in the West.”
Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP, finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, after being limited to two points in the first half, his fewest in any half this season.
And after witnessing the Jazz have four 25-point scorers for the first time in franchise history, Antetokounmpo felt a personal connection to what was happening before his eyes.
“It just looks fun. Like when I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy,” Antetokounmpo said. “It seems simple. Sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you’re at that point and you’re playing with that confidence, you sure are tough to beat.”
Like the Bucks last season, the Jazz (21-5) have the best record in the NBA. They have won 17 of their last 18 games, and the first win of that stretch was also against the Bucks on January 8.
Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles each had 27 points, and Donovan Mitchell added 26 points with eight assists and six rebounds. Jordan Clarkson scored 25 points off the bench.
Ingles said they would take a minute to celebrate the victory, but then it would work again.
“I don’t think we’re that satisfied yet,” said Ingles, who was 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
That’s because their goals are so much bigger than they were in the regular season, especially after last season, when they blew a 3-1 lead against Denver and were eliminated in the first round.
“We don’t want to be the best team in February; we want to be the best team in July,” Mitchell said.
Being respected at the top is still new to Mitchell and his teammates. As leaders in Utah, Mitchell and Gobert’s paths to becoming NBA All-Stars weren’t always set in stone, and they have developed an underdog mentality that has carried over to the team.
“It’s different in my four years. You look at each and every individual story … [we were] “Underrated,” Mitchell said. “I think now we are at a point where people attack us, and the way we have responded to that is very impressive. I think we can do a lot more to keep improving, but it doesn’t hurt to be in the moment and understand that what we are doing is very good. “
The road doesn’t get much easier for Utah, with the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and back-to-back games against the LA Clippers following. Then it’s Charlotte on February 22, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers on February 24 and the Heat again on February 26.
While the emphasis might not be on the regular season, the Jazz know they can’t help it either.
However, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said: “No one is beating their chest for anything we’ve done.
“Frankly, you never want to do that and it’s never appropriate unless you’re the last team standing,” Snyder said. “That is something we will continue to try to avoid.”