Giannis: Donovan Mitchell's Jazz 'Best Team in West' over LeBron James' Lakers

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2021

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) dunks between Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez (11) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Giannis Antetokounmpo said the Utah Jazz are the "best team in the West" after a 129-115 victory over his Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

The two-time defending NBA MVP said he was impressed with how easy the Jazz (21-5) made the game look as they had four players score at least 25 points—Rudy Gobert (27), Joe Ingles (27), Donovan Mitchell (26) and Jordan Clarkson (25)—to breeze past the Bucks (16-10).

"It just looks fun. Like when I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "It looks simple. For sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you're at that point and you're playing with that confidence, you're hard to beat for sure."

Utah made 52.4 percent of its shots from the field, got to the free-throw line 34 times and won the rebounding battle 46-33 as it cruised past Milwaukee.

The win moved the Jazz, who've won six straight, a half-game ahead of the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers (21-6) for the best record in the NBA. They're 17-1 since a 4-4 start.

They've done it with terrific play at both ends of the floor. They rank fourth in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency, per ESPN. No other team rates in the top five of both categories.

Utah also leads the league in point differential (+8.9), ahead of the Bucks (+8.6) and Lakers (+8.0), so all of the numbers suggest the early-season success is no fluke.

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said it's important the team doesn't become complacent after rolling through opponents.

"Nobody is beating their chest about anything that we've done," Snyder said. "Frankly you never want to do that and it's never appropriate unless you're the last team standing. That's something we'll continue to try to avoid."

The next week will continue to present challenges to the Jazz as they attempt to solidify themselves as one of the top title contenders.

They face the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat (11-14)—who've started to find their form with four straight wins—on Saturday followed by a clash with the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers (18-8) on Monday and then back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Clippers (19-8) on Wednesday and Friday.

The hype around the Jazz will reach a fever pitch if they win all four of those matchups, but even a 3-1 record would show continued progress for the emerging title hopefuls.