Giannis Antetokounmpo tied a career-high with 22 free throws in Game 3. The forward’s aggressive drives to the basket forced his Milwaukee Bucks team into the free throw bonus early in the third quarter, which put the Celtics defense on the back foot en route to a 123-116 defeat on Friday night.
After the game, Kyrie Irving pointed to a stretch in which Antetokounmpo had six free throws attempts in 58 seconds. He responded in the affirmative when asked if Boston had gotten caught up in the calls going against them.
“I mean it’s inevitable. Guy comes down almost six times in a row, gets free throws,” Irving told reporters. “You know, what are you really going to do? It’s slowing the game down. So the run that you would hope to make in a quarter like that doesn’t happen. I mean [Antetokounmpo] shot 22 on the game, I mean it’s getting ridiculous at this point. It’s just slowing the f****** game down.”
The Celtics have to slow the Bucks star down in Game 4 to even the series at TD Garden. Antetokounmpo finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists on Friday, and noted that he’s going to keep being aggressive.
“I love getting to the free throw line,” he said. “I’ve worked on it. I’m shooting my free throws with confidence, so it’s easy points for me and my teammates. I’m just going to keep being aggressive and making the right plays, and sometimes if I’ve got to take it all the way, then I’ll take it all the way.”
“Obviously, we know how many free throws he shot a game,” Irving said of Antetokounmpo. “He’s a great player in our league. We know how many times he goes to the basket and gets contact. But we also understand how many times we go to the basket and get contact.
“It’s a playoff game and guys are playing very aggressive and when you get into the bonus with eight minutes left in the third, it’s definitely a shocker. It will definitely put something in your mind where you don’t want to touch anyone.”
For the Celtics point guard, the only numbers that jumped off the boxscore page were the third quarter stats and Antetokounmpo’s 22 free throws. Boston will need a few eye-popping numbers of their own when Game 4 tips off at TD Garden on Monday at 7 p.m.
“The officiating, we’re going to leave them alone the next game,” Irving said. “We’re going to do a better job of walling up, better job of staying straight up, make sure there aren’t any eye-catching calls. Make sure we stay solid. Make sure we communicate to our guys that, ‘Hey, if this is the way we’re gonna play, we’re not going to adjust to them; we’re going to make them adjust to us.'”