Milwaukee Bucks select Donte DiVincenzo in first round

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks selected guard Donte DiVincenzo with the No. 17 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.

DiVincenzo, a product of Villanova, was named the 2018 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player as he helped to lead the Wildcats to their second national championship victory in three seasons.

In his junior season DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor including 40.1 percent from 3-point range.

DiVincenzo is comfortable in both catch and shoot situations as well as creating his own shots off the dribble.

“The workout with Milwaukee, I just went out there and visited,” DiVincenzo said at the draft after he was selected. “It was toward the end and we sat down and talked for awhile. I talked to chaco [Budenholzer], and I saw with the front office and a couple other players were there. Malcolm Brogdon was there working out, so I got to talk to him a little bit. Everyone was just welcoming. Everybody was great. They were great people and they really took interest in me. They treated me great there. I’m just thankful to be a part of their organization.”

DiVincenzo was named the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East for the 2017-18 season. He played in all 40 of Villanova’s games this past season, starting 10 of them. The 6-foot-5 guard was also named as a 2016-17 Big East All-Freshman Team selection.

“He’s obviously a sixth starter, but he brings whatever we need,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said about DiVincenzo earlier this year. “If we need a scoring punch, he brings it. If we need defense, he brings it. To have a sixth guy like that is invaluable.”

“Very excited to add a player like him to our roster,” Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst said after the selection. “Man of high character, highly competitive, athletic, has good size for a combo guard, can shoot the ball and is a proven winner.

“Donte was our guy, if you were up there and saw the election in our room when he got [to No. 17]. We were worried about it. We thought he was going to go a bit before us.”

DiVincenzo was rumored to be selected with the No. 16 pick by the Phoenix Suns — one spot ahead of Milwaukee — but the Philadelphia 76ers called them to trade for Zhaire Smith instead.

Milwaukee Bucks NBA leader in season-ticket sales

There is often excitement surrounding a franchise when a new stadium, arena, or field is opened. That certainly applies to the Milwaukee Bucks as the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center is set to open for the 2018-19 NBA season.

That excitement is palpable according to ESPN’s Darrel Rovell as the Milwaukee Bucks are now the NBA leader in season-ticket sales for next season.

According to the report from Rovell, the Bucks have sold 8,400 season tickets and is on pace to sell 10,000 season tickets for the first time in franchise history. The Bucks have also sold out all 67 suites in the new arena.

The naming rights for the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center have not yet been sold but a deal is reportedly imminent.

Milwaukee Bucks name assistant coaches

When the Milwaukee Bucks hired coach Mike Budenholzer in May he spoke to the media about wanting to move quickly in filling out his staff of assistant coaches. He also was hopeful that he would be able to bring in members of his staff from his five seasons in Atlanta as coach of the Hawks.

On Thursday morning it was announced that Budenholzer’s staff has been filled out with five members from his time in Atlanta.

Darvin Ham, Taylor Jenkins, Charles Lee, Ben Sullivan, and Patrick St. Andrews all spent time in Atlanta under Budenholzer and will be joining him in Milwaukee, the team announced. Sean Sweeney, who was an assistant coach for the Bucks under Jason Kidd and later Joe Prunty, has also been retained under Budenholzer.

“I’m thrilled to have my staff together again as we work to help improve our players and build sustained success here in Milwaukee,” Budenholzer said in a press release. “I am also excited to work with Sean [Sweeney], who is highly thought of in the league.”

Ham, Jenkins, Lee, and Sullivan were all part of the Eastern Conference All-Star coaching staff in 2014-15 when Budenholzer’s Hawks won 60 games and finished with the best record in the conference.

Ham and Jenkins had spent the past five seasons in Atlanta with Budenholzer while Lee and Sullivan had each been there for four years. St. Andrews was named as an assistant coach with the Hawks prior to this season, but was an assistant in basketball operations beginning in 2013 before working in the video department from 2014 until 2017.

Sweeney will be returning to the Bucks for his fifth season. He also spent one year as an assistant coach in Brooklyn with Kidd and was the Nets assistant video coordinator for two seasons prior to that.

Video of Sterling Brown arrest released

The City of Milwaukee Police Department has released the body camera footage from the January 26, 2018 arrest of Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown.

Brown was tasered and arrested over a dispute with police involving a parking spot early in the morning of January 26. The video can be seen below.

Statements from Brown, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the City of Milwaukee Police Department have all been released as well.

Brown released his statement via Twitter on Wednesday evening.

The Bucks followed with an official press release moments later.

The City of Milwaukee Police Department apologized at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon shortly  the footage of the arrest was released. Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales stated that after an internal investigation the officers who acted inappropriately have been disciplined internally.

“I am sorry this incident escalated to this level,” Morales told the media. He did not take any questions from reporters.

Brown plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department.

Brown played in 54 games this season for the Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged four points per game in 14.4 minutes played. In the playoffs Brown saw action in three games of Milwaukee’s first round loss to the Boston Celtics.

Five thoughts from Mike Budenholzer’s introductory press conference

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks officially introduced Mike Budenholzer as the 16th coach of the team on Monday afternoon at the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center. Budenholzer had spent the past five seasons as the coach of the Atlanta Hawks, with his role doubling as President of Basketball Operations in the first four of those seasons.

The hiring of Budenholzer concluded a search that officially started when the Bucks lost Game 7 of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics back on April 29th. Milwaukee reportedly interviewed a number of candidates including Spurs’ assistants Becky Hammon, Ettore Messina, and James Borrego, former Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford, and former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt before hiring Budenholzer.

Five takeaways from Budenholzer’s introductory press conference
Defense, defense, defense

One area where the Bucks drastically underachieved was on the defensive end of the floor. The team is comprised of mostly long, athletic players, and the defensive side of the ball should have been a place where Milwaukee thrived. Instead, the Bucks finished 17th in defensive rating this past season despite the talented roster they held.

“The thing that probably stands out to me first is the potential on the defensive side of the ball. I would say that’s been always something that’s prioritized,” Budenholzer said about his time in Atlanta and San Antonio. “We want to be great on both sides of the ball. Whether it be the last five years in Atlanta as a head coach, I think San Antonio at the end of the day has always been great defensively. With the individual talents we have here in Milwaukee and how we can get them – one of the words I used in the interview process is how can we unlock this talent defensively – I just think there is so much to work with.”

Budenholzer is correct in this thinking. All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and while his teammates aren’t exactly that caliber, there’s little doubt they should be better than they have been.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Much was made of the accurate report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe stating that Budenholzer shared breakfast with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton the morning prior to Milwaukee hiring him.

Budenholzer reaffirmed that when he was asked about it at his introductory press conference on Monday.

“It was a great opportunity to sit and visit with both Khris and Giannis. Just kind of talk basketball, talk a little bit about families, life,” Budenholzer said. “I think it was such a smart and important part of the process. I think how important both players are to us in the short term and the long term. As a coach, you’re only as good as your players and I think to connect with them on a lot of different levels. It was important that morning, it’s important going forward. It’s important to connect with our entire roster.”

No word on where they ate, or what they had, but it seems as if that breakfast sold Budenholzer on the job, no matter who picked up the check.

Developing Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo is the most important player on Milwaukee’s roster, and probably is the most important in the franchise since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned a uniform that read Milwaukee across the chest. That’s no secret.

It’s also not a secret that Antetokounmpo still has quite a way to go in order to become the player that many believe he can be. Antetokounmpo has yet to turn 24, but he has also yet to win a playoff series, or see his team finish higher than sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo just finished the first year of a four-year contract that runs until the summer of 2021. He’s openly spoken about being loyal and wanting to play his entire career out in Milwaukee, but until he signs his next contract, that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In today’s NBA stars move from team to team more frequently than they have ever before. In the past five seasons we’ve seen LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and many others either change teams in free agency or force their way out of their current situation via trade.

Not saying that will happen, but Budenholzer getting the most out of Antetokounmpo will ensure that it doesn’t. The relationship between those two will be key for the success of the Bucks today, tomorrow, and years from now.

San Antonio background

Almost every franchise in the NBA envies the success of the San Antonio Spurs. That’s no secret as San Antonio has been the model of consistency for the past three decades, missing the playoffs only once since 1989, including making the postseason every year since 1998.

The Bucks are trying to emulate the Spurs, and that was no secret during the interviewing process. Milwaukee reportedly interviewed three members of the (then) Spurs staff and one front office member in Monty Williams.

While they didn’t hire directly from San Antonio, Budenholzer does have almost as much experience under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as the four direct ties combined. He was an assistant in San Antonio from 1996 until he accepted the head coaching position with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013. This hire is as close to hiring directly from the Spurs as it gets without actually doing so.

Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center

The press conference was held in the soon-to-be home of the Bucks, the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center.

The arena is still waiting on a permanent name, it’s also waiting to be finished. In one of the stranger experiences of this writer’s career, all media and team personnel, with the exception of Budenholzer and Horst, were dressed complete with a hard hat, reflective vest, safety goggles, and work gloves while inside the arena.

Milwaukee Bucks new head coach Mike Budenholzer speaks at a news conference in the team’s new arena Monday, May 21, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It was an oddity to say the least, and truthfully the press conference probably would have been much better served taking place in the team’s practice facility right down the street. The Bucks wanted to show off the brand-new arena, but the media having to wear protective gear for one of the bigger moments in the history of the franchise seems incredibly silly.

On the bright side, there was cake. And who doesn’t love cake.

Milwaukee Bucks eye Budenholzer for coaching vacancy

The Milwaukee Bucks completed the initial round of interviews for the team’s coaching vacancy last week. They have decided to focus efforts on hiring former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, according to ESPN.

Budenholzer is also being courted by the Toronto Raptors, after coach Dwane Casey was let go late last week following Toronto losing in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.

The Bucks interviewed a number of candidates for the vacancy, including Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Becky Hammon, Steve Clifford, and David Blatt.

Milwaukee will meet with Budenholzer for the second time on Tuesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Last shots: Celtics 112, Bucks 96

Twenty-three last shots for the 23 points scored by guard Eric Bledsoe in Milwaukee’s 112-96 loss in Game 7 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics.

1. This was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s no other way to put it.

2. The Bucks had aspirations of battling for homecourt advantage in the first round and making a run as deep as the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead, their season ends with a Game 7 loss in the first round to the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics.

3. Make no mistake, the Celtics aren’t one of the typical powerhouse No. 2 seed. Sure, they won 55 games this year, but once the playoffs rolled around Boston was without several key players. Kyrie Irving and Daniel Theis both missed the entire series, Marcus Smart missed the first four games, Jaylen Brown missed the second half of Game 7, and Gordon Heyward missed the entire season.

4. The Celtics still found a way to beat the Bucks four times despite Milwaukee being the team at full-strength.

5. No. 7 seeds aren’t typically expected to advance in the NBA Playoffs. This one was.

6. In a game that could have been an early career-defining moment for all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, it wasn’t. He wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t the performance needed from a player knocking on the door of the NBA’s elite.

7. Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers. He was far from spectacular. Antetokounmpo wasn’t the best player on the floor, and the Bucks cannot win when that’s the case. Khris Middleton, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and arguably Eric Bledsoe were better than him.

8. Middleton continued his strong play, finishing with a game-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He had an incredible series and was certainly Milwaukee’s most consistent player. Bledsoe also saved his best game of the series – by far – for Game 7. He had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the loss.

9. Even with Bledsoe playing well, he was still outplayed by Rozier, who finished with a playoff-career-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine assists. Horford also had 26 points for Boston on 13-of-17 shooting.

10. The Bucks needed an effort from Antetokounmpo similar to the one they received in Game 6. On that night Antetokounmpo was undoubtedly the best player on the floor. He was the reason that the Bucks were able to force a Game 7, he was also part of the reason that Milwaukee’s season is now over.

11. Milwaukee now enters an offseason filled with uncertainty. The Bucks do not have a head coach, as it’s extremely unlikely that interim coach Joe Prunty will be retained to lead the team, and they’ll have to make a decision on Jabari Parker’s future.

12. Prunty will likely be given an opportunity to interview for the job opening, but the Bucks would be foolish to retain him moving forward. This job, due to the opportunity to coach Antetokounmpo, will be one of the more sought-after positions in the NBA for this coaching cycle.

13. That’s not to say Milwaukee will be able to pick any coach out there. With the Bucks lasting two weeks into the playoffs, every other team with a coaching vacancy has a head start on the search. For instance, the New York Knicks have reportedly interviewed 10 candidates already. Hiring the right coach will certainly help the Bucks move closer to owning the future that has been talked about so often. But that alone will not do it. There have been poor personnel decisions that have factored into the Bucks struggling, not just the coaching of Prunty and Jason Kidd before him.

14. Milwaukee has nearly $50 million tied up next season between Eric Bledsoe, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, and Mirza Teletovic. Add in the dead money the team has from the Larry Sanders and Spencer Hawes situations and that number is over $50 million.

15. This is all before factoring in the Parker situation. He now enters restricted free agency after turning down Milwaukee’s contract extension offer prior to the season.

16. At times, Parker has been a very productive player for Milwaukee. Those times haven’t been frequent enough, and frankly, there are too many deficiencies in his game for him to be a max-level player. Add in his injured plagued history and he’s not a player that can be counted on with that type of financial commitment.

17. The likely scenario is that Parker will be given an offer sheet by another team and the Bucks will have an opportunity to match it. Matching it may push the Bucks further into financial distress as they wait for the contracts handed out to Henson, Dellavedova, and Snell to run out.

18. Not matching it would mean letting a talented player walk out the door with no compensation while the team is attempting to enter a window of contention.

19. The other question the Bucks need to ask this offseason is how serious the future is they’re trying to own. Yes, Antetokounmpo’s future is bright, and yes, Middleton is a very underrated player alongside him.

20. With that being said, where do the Bucks sit in the pecking order of the Eastern Conference? There’s uncertainty surrounding Cleveland with the future of LeBron James, yes. But the Celtics just knocked the Bucks off without their two best players, the Philadelphia 76ers are currently better than the Bucks — despite being younger – and are only going to be getting better while maintaining financial flexibility, and the Toronto Raptors do not look like they’re going anywhere soon, either.

21. And that’s only the Eastern Conference.

22. It’s hard to call this season anything but a failure for Milwaukee. And no matter what Antetokounmpo says about his future in Milwaukee, the clock is ticking for the Bucks.

23. Right now, it’s certainly difficult to see the Bucks owning the future.

Last shots: Bucks 97, Celtics 86

MILWAUKEE – Nineteen last shots for the 19 assists dished out by the Bucks in Milwaukee’s 97-86 win in Game 6 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics.

1. If Thursday night marked the last time the BMO Harris Bradley Center sees an NBA game, the building went out on a high note. With the Milwaukee Bucks moving next door to the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center at the beginning of next season the Bradley Center is in its final days.

2. The buzzer sounded for what could be the final time, and chants of “Bucks in seven” rang throughout the building. The Bucks forced a Game 7 by virtue of a 97-86 victory over the Celtics in Game 6.

3. This was the game that Milwaukee desperately needed from all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was much more aggressive than he was in Game 6, finishing with 31 points and 14 rebounds on 13-of-23 shooting.

4. “I thought he played great. I don’t think he forced anything. I think he took the opportunities that were there for him,” interim coach Joe Prunty said after the game.

5. He was everything the Bucks needed in Game 5 in Boston, and he’s going to need to repeat a performance like this in Game 7, but for Thursday night, Antetokounmpo was fantastic.

6. Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half and carried his team to the win. His play in the fourth quarter was exactly what a superstar is supposed to do. He scored 12 points in the period. Antetokounmpo took nine shots in the fourth quarter alone, just one less than he had in the entirety of Game 5. He scored eight of Milwaukee’s final 11 points and was the only Bucks player to make a field goal in the final 5:22 of the game.

7. “My team did a great job looking for me. I was able to rebound the ball and find lanes in transition too,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was out there, I was trying to make plays and be aggressive, and that’s what I did tonight.”

8. Guard Malcolm Brogdon went 3-of-4 from the free throw line during that stretch, other than that, every point was scored by Antetokounmpo.

9. Nearly every star player has a moment when they learn how to be the guy to go and win a playoff game for their team in a moment like this. Michael Jordan had “The Shot” over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo, LeBron James had 25 straight points for the Cavaliers in a pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons. They both had failed times prior to those instances. It’s very, very rare for a star to enter the league and be able to succeed on this type of stage right away.

10. Time will tell if this is that moment for Antetokounmpo. Thursday night was the biggest moment of his career to date, and he certainly delivered.

11. Antetokounmpo did this two nights after a lackluster performance in Boston, and one night after the world watch Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and James take over games when their teams needed them to most. Oklahoma City was on the verge of elimination, trailing by 25 points only to be rescued by Westbrook and George. Cleveland was tied 2-2 in their series with Indiana when James buried a 3-pointer as time expired to push the Cavaliers to the verge of advancing.

12. Antetokounmpo’s game on Thursday night wasn’t quite at the level of those games, but it was the most important of his career to date, and that’s meaningful for the 23-year-old star.

13. The thing is, this will only be the biggest moment of his career until Saturday evening when Game 7 takes place in Boston. For the first time in his career he has an opportunity to close a team out and win a series. No doubt it will be a tall task on the road, but it’s a moment where he can cement his status as one of the best in the world.

14. Game 7s are where legends are made in the playoffs. On this roster Jason Terry, Matthew Dellavedova, Tyler Zeller, and Eric Bledsoe have all been on a team that has taken part in a Game 7. Only Terry and Bledsoe have seen minutes during one, however. Dellavedova did not play during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, and Zeller did not play in Boston’s Game 7 against Washington last season.

15. Game 7 is a different animal than anything else in the NBA. Players tend to tighten up, scoring tends to be a bit lower, and every play is magnified.

16. “It’s going to be crazy. It’s do or die at this point,” forward Khris Middleton said following the game. “The crowd in Boston is rowdy, just like they are here. It’s going to be a great game. There are no secrets between teams; it comes down to who has more will.”

17. If the Bucks are going to have a chance at winning Game 7 on the road they need Antetokounmpo to have more will than anyone on the court. He’ll need to have a performance at the level of Thursday night’s or better.

18. That’s what superstars do, and Antetokounmpo has a chance to cement his status on Saturday night.

19. Tip-off on Saturday night in Boston is set for 7 p.m. CT from the TD Garden. Talk to you then.

Last shots: Celtics 92, Bucks 87

Twenty last shots for the 20 free throws attempted by the Milwaukee Bucks in Tuesday night’s 92-87 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

1. The Milwaukee Bucks missed an opportunity on Tuesday night, there’s no other way to say it. Granted, the Bucks certainly didn’t receive any help at the end of the game, but an opportunity was missed, nonetheless.

2. The Boston Celtics made adjustments from Games 3 and 4 at the Bradley Center. Forward Semi Ojeleye was shifted into the starting lineup in place of Aron Baynes, and Al Horford moved to center to start the game. The player that seemed to impact the most for Milwaukee was Giannis Antetokounmpo.

3. Antetokounmpo finished with just 10 shots from the floor attempted on the night. He had only two such games with less than 10 shots in the regular season this year. Only in one of those contests did he play the full game.

4. Antetokounmpo passed the ball well, finishing an assist short of a triple-double while posting a final stat line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. But that wasn’t what his team needed him to do.

5. Tuesday night was arguably the biggest game of Antetokounmpo’s career to date. The Bucks have realistic expectations of winning this series and had a chance to take a 3-2 series lead in Boston’s gym. Antetokounmpo is still learning how to be a superstar, leader, and winner. At 23 years old, that’s something that’s okay. Few are ready to take over a game at that age, especially in the playoffs.

6. Tuesday night was an opportunity for him to cement himself among the game’s best players. That’s not to say every bona fide super star in the league would have won that game. But it’s worth wondering how many of them would only have attempted 10 shots in the same situation.

7. That’s not to say Antetokounmpo won’t be able to change that in the near future. The Bucks will certainly need him to show up in a big way on Thursday night, but Tuesday was a missed opportunity.

8. Instead, the Bucks will return to the Bradley Center for a win-or-go-home Game 6 on Thursday night.

9. As a team Milwaukee didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. They finished 32-for-87 (36.8%) shooting. Team’s don’t tend to win playoff games when shooting that poorly from the field. The Rockets defeated Minnesota in Game 2 of their first round series this year while shooting 36.5 percent, but that included 16 made 3-pointers, compared to nine by the Bucks.

10. Prior to Houston’s win this year, the last team to win a playoff game shooting the same percentage as the Bucks or worse came in 2015 when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals 95-93 while shooting 32.2 percent. So, yeah, it doesn’t happen very often.

11. Aside from Antetokounmpo struggling to find shots, the Bucks had a tough time scoring due to Khris Middleton’s regression to the mean. Through the first four games Middleton was 40-of-65 shooting from the floor for an insane 61.5 percent. Middleton didn’t play poorly on Tuesday, but he also didn’t play spectacular, as he had been.

12. There was no way he was going to be able to keep shooting at that rate. Tuesday night saw Middleton finish 9-of-21 shooting, and he had plenty of good looks that didn’t find their way to the bottom of the net. Shooters have nights like that from time to time, Tuesday was one of them for Middleton.

13. After Milwaukee got strong contributions from Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, and Tony Snell in Games 3 and 4, those role players struggled in Game 5. They combined to score two points on 1-of-12 shooting in 51:53 of floor time. It’s expected that role players don’t play as well on the road as they do at home, but the lack of production from those three hurt Milwaukee after a pair of strong games.

14. Milwaukee was still able to find contributions from its bench, however. Jabari Parker continued strong play after a lackluster start to the series. He had 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds.

15. The Bucks also got an unexpected contribution from Shabazz Muhammad. He scored 11 points in just under 10 minutes on the floor. Muhammad had played just over 15 minutes prior to Tuesday night, including two DNP-CD’s in Games 1 and 4. The only meaningful minutes he had played came in the Game 2 loss.

16. As for the end of the game, Milwaukee has a right to be upset with the way things turned out. With 1:16 left in regulation the Bucks trailed 84-79 as Boston’s Horford released a shot on the left wing. The issue was that the 24-seond shot clock had expired and should have resulted in the Bucks gaining control of the ball via turnover.

17. That didn’t happen, as Horford’s shot hit the rim and an offensive rebound was credited to Ojeleye. While the Celtics didn’t score on that extra possession, the Bucks didn’t get the ball back until 50 seconds left in the game.

18. There’s no way of knowing whether or not those 26 seconds would have changed the outcome for Milwaukee, but it certainly would have given them a much better chance at finishing off the comeback.

19. When the last 2-minute report is released by the NBA on Wednesday it will certainly show that the officiating crew headed by Ken Mauer missed a critical call. There will be plenty of other things on the L2M, both correct and incorrect, but that will be the call that stands out the most.

20. The Bucks and Celtics will square off in Game 6 on Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. A Milwaukee win would force a decisive Game 7 on Saturday in Boston. A Boston win would end Milwaukee’s season. Talk to you then.

Bucks need role players to step up in Boston

“Another hard-fought game, physical game. Found a way to close it out. They made their run in the third, carried it over in the fourth, but like I said, we found a way to close it out. 2-2, headed to Boston.”

That’s how Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty opened his press conference on Sunday following Milwaukee’s 104-102 win over the Celtics. Heading back to Boston for a Game 5 was always part of the plan for the Bucks in terms of winning the series.

After the first two games in Boston, primarily the blowout loss in Game 2, a return trip to Boston wasn’t guaranteed. When the Bucks lost by 14 points, it seemed as if all chance of Milwaukee advancing to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for the first time since 2001 was gone. That Tuesday night it was difficult picturing the Bucks winning a game, nevertheless the next two.

One week later the Bucks will be back in the same building as they were when trying to explain the 14-point loss, this time, they’ll be playing their biggest game of the season. Every game moving forward for Milwaukee becomes the biggest of the year. That’s no secret.

So, what exactly changed between Tuesday night’s loss and Monday morning’s flight back to Boston with a 2-2 split?

The role players off the bench certainly played better in Milwaukee than Boston, which is to be expected. The opposite can be said for Boston’s role players. Sure, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford still put on strong performances. But Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin, two players that played integral roles in the first two games, were unable to elevate their performances on the road.

It’s fair to wonder if Jabari Parker, Matthew Dellavedova, and Thon Maker will be able to replicate their play in Boston. Parker was nearly unplayable in the first two games of the series, and Dellavedova and Maker combined to play a total of less than six minutes.

After the past two games, it’s known that Dellavedova and Maker will both be on the floor plenty in Game 5 in Boston.

Maker has fed off the energy provided by the crowd at home in the past couple of games. He won’t have that benefit in Boston. In fact, Maker may not exactly be the most well-liked player when he steps on the floor on Tuesday night. He was involved in a tie up with Boston center Aron Baynes that will certainly be remembered by Celtics fans.

Dellavedova isn’t a player that should have to worry about being intimidated by the daunting Boston crowd. He’s one of two players on the roster to be the owner of a championship ring. Dellavedova has played in more big moments than everyone on the roster, except for maybe Jason Terry.

Parker, however, was an entirely different player at home than on the road. There’s no real concrete reason why that was the case, either.

“We’ve been saying from the beginning that we need him. He is one of the best scorers in the league and one of the best players. For him to come off the bench for us, it is a huge boost. We just want to be ready and stay locked in,” Khris Middleton said of Parker’s effort on Sunday. “It wasn’t [going] for him on the offensive end early, the defensive end is really what got us going. He came in, he was locked in and did a great job of guarding his man and helping guys.”

In Boston, the Bucks need him to be the same player he was in Games 3 and 4. His scoring output was higher, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively. But more importantly, Parker’s defensive effort in the first half of Game 4 was arguably the best of his career. He had three blocks and a pair of steals in that half alone. Parker has not had a single game in his entire career with those numbers.

Those three players all had a huge impact in Game 4. When Parker — who was the first player off Milwaukee’s bench — entered the Bucks were trailing 12-5. Milwaukee quickly went on a 6-0 run and outscored Boston 46-23 the rest of the half.

In total, the Bucks were better with the bench players on the floor. Parker, Dellavedova, Maker, and Tony Snell were the only players to post a positive plus/minus. The only starter that wasn’t a negative was Middleton, who was an even zero.

Winning on Tuesday means that the Bucks would have an opportunity to finish off the series in front of a home crowd at the Bradley Center. Milwaukee would also have the opportunity to fulfill the prophecy of Brandon Jennings in 2013.

Lose, well then, the Bucks have their backs against the wall yet again in Game 6.

Each game brings a new pressure that this team has not yet faced. Yes, this core was in a similar situation last year in the postseason against Toronto, but the expectations are different. This team was supposed to win 50 games or more, fight to have home court advantage in the first round and become a legitimate threat to make a deep run in the playoffs.

None of those goals were reached by the Bucks but winning a playoff series for the first time in 18 years would help to erase the fact that the team severely underachieved during the season. They just need to win two more games to make it happen.