Donte DiVincenzo closing for Warriors is about more than defense


DiVincenzo closing for Warriors is about more than defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors down the stretch of the fourth quarter and all of overtime Saturday night in their thrilling 125-116 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at Chase Center used the same lineup as the first five who stepped on the court.

There was the core four of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. Then there was a new face to this season: Donte DiVincenzo.

He played nine-plus minutes in the fourth, and all five minutes of overtime. The reasoning was obvious. The Warriors needed DiVincenzo’s defense more than a possible scoring burst by Jordan Poole.

“Donte is an excellent defender,” Steve Kerr explained after the win. “We felt like that gave us the best chance to win, with the threats they have out there. With Jrue [Holiday] and [Joe] Ingles and [Khris] Middleton, we wanted Donte’s defense out there.

“That’s why we went with him. Every game is a little different, but tonight was Donte’s turn to finish.”

DiVincenzo can defend both guard positions, as well as small forward. His savvy and active hands allows his to side down and more than hold his own against players, too. Plus, he’s a great rebounding guard, grabbing 10 against the Bucks.

He now has at least 10 rebounds in three games this season.

But DiVincenzo starting and closing is about more than his defense. His offense can’t be ignored as well. Milwaukee was the latest opposing team to learn why.

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While Steph Curry put the NBA’s best team this season to sleep with 36 points and multiple jaw-dropping highlights in the clutch, DiVincenzo continued to his breakout shooting season.

Along with his 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals to help him be a plus-17 in plus/minus rating, he scored 20 points for the fourth time this season and tied a career-high of six made 3-pointers.

That also is what allows him to thrive with Saturday’s starting and closing lineup, as well as a handful of other groups. Coming into the season, DiVincenzo’s career high in 3-point percentage was 37.9 in the 2020-21 season with Milwaukee. After sinking six more triples in what felt like the Warriors’ latest must-win game, DiVincenzo now is shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range.

How impressive is that? He’s behind Curry (only the greatest shooter of all time), but now a tick ahead of Klay Thompson with his 3-point percentage this season.

“The biggest thing for me is, when I’m aggressive it opens up everything else for me,” DiVincenzo said. “Not just shooting the ball, but being aggressive, getting downhill, getting guys shots. And the gravity, everybody goes with Steph, so I find myself open.

“When you’re on the court with two of them at a time, I’m definitely going to get overlooked. Just having that confidence and knocking them down, it’s been huge for me this year.”

To thrive on the court alongside Green and Looney, the Warriors have to surround them with 3-point shooters. Those two are lock-down defenders and great rebounders. Green was a game-high plus-22 despite going 2 of 10 from the field for five points. Looney struggled around the rim, and was 3-of-11 shooting overall. The Warriors don’t win without them.

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They combined to come down with 28 of Golden State’s 65 rebounds — 15 from Looney and 13 from Green. Looney also swiped a career-high five steals. Now back to the offense.

Andrew Wiggins can be the Warriors’ third shooter with Green and Looney on the floor. He just missed his 11th straight game to a family matter, and the Warriors are hopeful he returns this season as they continue respecting his space. Jordan Poole was expected to be that player, but has been a 32.7-percent 3-point shooter this season. For comparison’s sake, Green is having his best 3-point shooting season since 2015-16, and is at 32.4 percent.

DiVincenzo hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. First to give the Warriors an 83-81 lead, and then to cut their deficit from eight to five with a little over two minutes remaining in regulation. He now is shooting 43.4 percent (36 of 83) behind the 3-point line in the fourth quarter this season, his best percentage of any quarter and most total 3s of any quarter.

“Donte’s been one of our best players night in and night out,” Kerr said. “This was a special game for him playing against his old teammates. He was fantastic. Not only shooting and the energy, but the rebounding. Made big play after big play, and he’s going to fight for every possession defensively.

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“He’s been a godsend for us.”

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Kerr’s starting five played together for 16:36 and were a plus-23. They outscored the Bucks 45-22, going 8 of 14 on 2-pointers and 8 of 17 on 3-pointers. The group had a 132.4 offensive rating and 66.7 defensive rating, resulting in a 65.7 net rating.

The numbers they’re stacking together have been culminating, and have to say a lot to the man making the decisions.

Playing together for 42 minutes this season now, the five-man group has a 24.2 net rating with a 120.9 offensive rating and 96.7 defensive rating. They have a 76.9 assist percentage, 3.33 assist-to-turnover ratio, 57.0 rebounding percentage and a 60.5 true shooting percentage. The numbers meet the product we’re witnessing with our eyes.

Defense or offense, DiVincenzo is the glue Golden State has been searching for, holding the core together with 14 regular-season games to go — and each mattering more than the last.

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