LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Utah guard Donovan Mitchell scored 12 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter yesterday as the NBA-leading Jazz eked out a 115-112 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
The Jazz, stung by a 131-122 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday, bounced back by the skin of their teeth as Raptors centre Pascal Siakam’s potential game-tying shot dipped in then out at the buzzer.
It wasn’t the kind of dominance the Jazz displayed in winning 11 straight games in January and another nine in a row in February but they gradually heated up offensively, outrebounded the Raptors 48-31 and made 35 of 41 attempts from the free throw line to prevail.
In a fourth quarter that featured eight lead changes Donovan made the difference, scoring eight straight points in the final minute and a half.
“Finding guys and also seeing where I can fit in and do my thing,” Donovan said of finding the right balance between facilitating his teammates and taking over.
“I forced a shot early in the game but in the second half I was pleased with all the decisions I made.”
Jazz Coach Quin Snyder thought Donovan, who added five rebounds and six assists, got it right as the Jazz became the first team this season to reach 30 victories.
“Toronto’s one of the best defences in the league, particularly on the ball, and I thought Donovan showed a lot of resolve,” Snyder said.
“There was a toughness that he had. Not only was he aggressive and forceful, he was also precise and made really good reads.”
In the East, the Brooklyn Nets slipped half a game behind conference leaders Philadelphia with a 121-113 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Orlando’s Aaron Gordon scored 38 points and Evan Fournier chipped in 31 as the Magic fended off a late rally by Brooklyn.
Orlando withstood a 43-point performance from Nets star Kyrie Irving, snapping Brooklyn’s six-game winning streak while ending their own nine-game skid.
The Nets trailed by 19 going into the fourth quarter but opened the final period on a 16-1 scoring run.
A tip-in and a three-pointer by Gordon, however, helped the Magic turn back the challenge.
Irving scored just seven points in the fourth quarter and star guard James Harden scored just 19 points on four-of-15 shooting — his streak of 14 straight games of at least 20 points ending.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray keyed Denver’s stunning rally for a 131-127 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Serbia’s Jokic and Canada’s Murray scored 34 points apiece against a Bulls team that dominated most of the way thanks to point guard Zach Lavine, who put up 32 points.
The Bulls led by 14 early in the fourth quarter but Jokic and Murray combined for 24 points in the final frame.
Murray drilled a three-pointer with four-tenths of a second left in regulation and added seven points in the extra session. Jokic added six in overtime as the Nuggets pulled away for the win.
Zach LaVine scored nine of his 32 for the Bulls in overtime but the Nuggets notched their third-straight win to remain tied for fifth place in the Western Conference with the Portland Trail Blazers, who beat the Dallas Mavericks 125-119.
CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 32 points and Damian Lillard shook off a second-half injury scare – staying in the game after taking a painful knock to his left knee – to score 31.
Luka Doncic led the Mavs with 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
In Memphis, Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins stepped up in the absence of star Stephen Curry, scoring 40 points in the Warriors’ 116-103 victory over the Grizzlies.
Curry was sidelined by a bruised tailbone suffered in a sideline fall on Wednesday.
But with a dominant offensive display from Wiggins and 25 points from second-year guard Jordan Poole — who got the start in place of Curry — the Warriors won for the first time in three games without Curry this season.
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