Bucks/Celtics Figuring Out How to Play Through Physical Series

The Bucks-Celtics second-round series has been noted for its intensity and sheer physicality. After a 103-101 Milwaukee win, Boston has continued to rally behind a controversial missed call late in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics believe that Jrue Holiday fouled Marcus Smart when the reigning DPOY attempted a three-pointer and that he should’ve gone to the free-throw line to win Game 3 potentially or at the very least send the game to overtime. What ultimately transpired was the referees awarded Smart two free throws despite passionate pleas from Smart and Coach Ime Udoka.

Smart subsequently executed Boston’s strategy to make the freebie and miss the second, but Boston could not get a game-tying bucket, and Milwaukee closed out the game to take a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4. Udoka continued to advocate for Smart that the refs should’ve given Smart three free throws, adding that he should be the one that speaks to the referees about what fouls they’re calling during a highly contentious and physical game like Game 3.

“He caught the ball; he was turning into his shot, both feet set. You can’t say that was a sweep. You’re going into a shot,” Udoka said per The Athletic. “Poor call, poor no-call. I saw it in person, but also just saw it on film. It’s a shot. Curling into a shot, he’s getting fouled on the way up. Bad missed call.”

Per the NBA’s L2M officiating report for Game 3, the League confirmed that the controversial call was correct, their reasoning being, “Holiday (MIL) commits a foul by making contact with Smart’s (BOS) arms before he is bringing the ball upward toward the basket. A personal foul is correctly called.”

“If they’re going to call it that way, consistently on both ends, we got to play through it and not bitch about calls and get back,”

On the other side, Coach Mike Budenholzer and Giannis Antetokounmpo decided not to take on the subject of the referring and how tough the second-round series has been through three games.

However, the man in the middle of the storm, Jrue Holiday, praised Antetokounmpo for being able to play through the Celtics’ rugged defense and finishing Game 3 with 42 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists on 16-30 shooting from the field and sinking 9-12 free throws.

“It’s what he does, to be completely honest,” Holiday said. “We didn’t have but half of their free throws, but it was a pretty physical game. I don’t know. Two aggressive teams, two teams that love to sit down and play defense. I imagine it’s gonna be like that for the rest of the series.”

Like the Celtics, the Bucks have had problems with the officiating in Game 3, especially the disparity in free throw attempts, 34 for Boston and 17 for Milwaukee. The Celtics attempted 17 free throws, including 11 in the fourth quarter) in the last 16 and a half minutes. The Bucks did not get to the line once during that same period.

During a conversation Bucks GM Jon Horst had with Eric Nehm of The Athletic, he noted the difference in fourth-quarter free throws, claiming that Boston shot 11 freebies on 14 drives while Milwaukee shot none in 10 drives. The Greek Freak established his will going to line 12 times on 12 shots in the paint in the first 36 minutes but didn’t shoot a single free throw despite going to the rim eight times.

Horst also noted how Jaylen Brown (27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists) shot a career-high 11 free throws, as did Derrick White (14 points on 3-6 shooting from the field, 2-3 from beyond the arc) shot a career-high eight freebies. According to Milwaukee and Horst, Holiday became the first player in playoff history to attempt 30 shots, including 14 in the paint, and not shoot a single free throw.

“I mean this sincerely: I do respect that, at the end of the day, it is a hard job, right? I couldn’t do their job. You couldn’t do their job,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said Sunday evening in an exclusive interview with The Athletic. “Officiating is hard, just like playing is hard, and coaching is hard, and I think we all have a standard of trying to get better and improve. And at the end of the day, that’s what stood out to me. We have to improve. That wasn’t a quality playoff basketball game, and I think officiating played a role in that.”

The Bucks look to take a 3-1 series lead on Monday.

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