The Milwaukee Bucks will need all the help they can get going into Game 5 Tuesday evening and it may be the stage for Donte DiVincenzo to continue his gradual turnaround this series.
They may have avoided enduring a clean sweep, but the Milwaukee Bucks know they have quite the uphill climb in continuing to save their season from ending far too prematurely.
Their Game 4 overtime victory over the Miami Heat Sunday evening was a picture of resilience in the face of adversity, something that hasn’t been the case for the Bucks throughout the series. It also came at the cost of losing superstar Giannis Antetokonmpo, who re-aggravated his ankle injury and whose status remains a mystery moving forward.
With or without Antetokounmpo, the Bucks will have to shoulder a challenge they haven’t been accustomed to taking on at any point this season. And it may prove to be the perfect stage for Donte DiVincenzo to stage a resurgence against his own personal descent down in Orlando.
DiVincenzo’s time in the bubble has been far from a pleasant one, especially after the second-year guard had embedded himself in the Bucks’ rotation as a valuable contributor during the regular season before it was suspended.
For as much as he had rocketed into the Bucks and the league’s consciousness, DiVincenzo’s proverbial star had fallen as fast over the Bucks’ seeding games, and that’s something that has only continued in their disappointing playoff run.
The fact that DiVincenzo had compiled as many assists as turnovers (18) over the Bucks’ seeding games was a damning fact in regards to his lack of composure and his overall ineffectiveness on both ends only reinforced that. Much of what made DiVincenzo such a fascinating piece within the Bucks’ foundation in their quest for an NBA title this season, whether it was his growing offensive spark, the defensive disruption and his balls to the wall energy was nowhere to be found.
In many ways, DiVincenzo very much looked like a player that was getting his first taste of playoff experience and was trying hard to tap back into that rhythm, something that could easily describe the Bucks’ run down in the bubble as a whole.
As a result of his sudden struggles, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer’s faith in the Villanova product was clearly shaken as DiVincenzo’s minutes trailed off near the end of the Magic series. That continued into the start of the Conference Semifinals and culminated in him recording just seven minutes and 46 seconds in the Bucks’ Game 2 loss last Wednesday night.
What has followed since then have been signs of life from DiVincenzo and it couldn’t have come sooner just as the Bucks’ season has fallen on life support.
It’s only been a start, but DiVincenzo has found that spark, all of which has been helped by seeing the ball going in the basket. Sure, his floor spacing and marksmanship from three has come and gone and that will only continue, but his dribble-drive game has finally returned as he’s breezing by the likes of Heat rookie Tyler Herro with ease.
On the other end, DiVincenzo has had his moments of brilliance, which have included pick-pocketing Herro in back-to-back games that set up a pair of fast break finishes for DiVincenzo to finish at the rack.
Scoring in double figures in each of the last two games while going a combined 8-for-15 shooting (2-for-6 from deep) has brightened the outlook in the immediate sense for DiVincenzo. Being a +22 in his 26-and-a-half minutes in Game 4 has been responsible for why he currently has a +10.4 net rating across his 70 minutes in the series, per NBA.com/stats.
Again, they are far from overwhelming numbers. But in a series where the Bucks have been cut to the core, from their shrinking depth to their entire identity, seeing some signs of life from someone like DiVincenzo is why they’re still kicking as of this writing.
After all, DiVincenzo is the reason why the Bucks were able to send Game 4 into overtime after he drew a foul on a drive on the baseline on the Bucks’ final possession in regulation. The win could have even been cemented right there had not DiVincenzo missed the first of his two free throws, which he talked about with Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after the win:
“I’ve got to make both of them,” said DiVincenzo, who had 10 points and five rebounds in 27 impactful minutes off the bench. “But the confidence my teammates have in me is unreal. Honestly, after missing that first one they just said just go get it back. That’s all. Send it into overtime and we’ll handle the rest. And that’s what happened and those dudes just kind of willed me to make that free throw.”
DiVincenzo didn’t buckle under pressure at such a critical moment and with a season literally at and on the line that in and of itself is a long way from where he was just earlier in the series. With pressure at an all-time high for the Bucks in general, DiVincenzo’s resumed moxie will be necessary in order to live another day past Game 5.