PHOENIX – After the Phoenix Suns scored 26 free throws in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer admitted that the disparity in free throws in the game Phoenix won 118-105 , it was “frustrating” for the team.
“Are you trying to annoy me?” Budenholzer said with a smile when asked about the Suns, who had 10 more free throw attempts than their team in Game 1. “It’s a big part of the game. They had 25 points from the free throw line A team that prides itself on defending and being able to be good defensively without fouling.
“I don’t remember the last time a team made 25 free throws in a game against the Bucks. And then, conversely, the way Giannis [Antetokounmpo] attack, the way Khris [Middleton] attack, as many chances as Khris has the ball … it’s frustrating, but it’s part of the sport. It’s part of the game.
“We have to be better defensively. We have to keep them off the free throw line and we have to be more aggressive in attacking and getting to the free throw line and getting to a good offense.”
Of the 16 games the Bucks have played in these playoffs, there was only one other time that Milwaukee’s opponent fired as many as 26 free throws: Game 2 of Milwaukee’s first-round series with the Miami Heat, when the Heat left. 24-of-35 from the free throw line in a Bucks win.
However, what made that gap even more painful in Game 1 for the Bucks was the effectiveness of both teams down the line. Phoenix was a remarkable 25 of 26 from the charity streak, with the only failure coming from Jae Crowder with 24.8 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
The Bucks, on the other hand, went 9 of 16. And while Giannis Antetokounmpo was 7 of 12 from the free throw line, only two other players: Jrue Holiday (2 of 2) and Brook Lopez (0 of 2) came close. to the line.
Middleton, meanwhile, made 26 shots but missed a single free throw.
“It’s tough, you know, teams have been picking up lately,” Middleton said after Game 1. “I just have to try to get through it. I can’t wait for the officials to bail me out. I’m just trying to be strong with it. If they call a foul, they call a foul. But lately they haven’t, so I have to play better, be stronger. “
There was a similar message coming from Holiday on Wednesday. After struggling offensively in Game 1, hitting 4 of 14 shots from the field, missing all four of his 3-point attempts, and missing a few wide shots to lead to worse chances, Holiday said he needs to be more aggressive, but the Bucks need to be too. smart to find the right opportunities to do so.
“His defense tries to take that away,” Holiday said of attacking the paint. “Again, like I said before, they close the painting very, very well, but we have to be smart.
“But we have to be in the paint a lot more. I felt like every series that we played, the games that we won, we were the best in the paint and we scored in the paint, so that’s what we did.”
However, at the other end, the Bucks are also aware of the way Chris Paul and Devin Booker can create contact with defenders and get to the line, especially when they put Phoenix on penalty. That’s something Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said Milwaukee should focus on heading into Game 2 as it hopes to prevent Phoenix from restarting the conveyor belt to and from the free throw line.
“Yeah, that’s a game-for-game, right?” Connaughton said of balancing aggression with defensive discipline against Milwaukee guards. “But I also think it’s not just the fouls for being physical, but for being mentally locked up or knowing what they want to do. There were some fouls last night that were on false shots that we must be aware that the guys are in their team loves it. make.
“There’s also the idea of knowing how physical you can be before the bonus and after the bonus, and so understand that, understand when they’re in the scoring area, understand when we can make them feel uncomfortable, when we can be physical, and then just right. when we can be physical when we are in the right position. Being physical doesn’t always mean pushing them out of place. Being physical means being somewhere before they get there, being in a position to take over, being in a position to go vertical , be in a position to make the floor look really small when they’re trying to find driving lanes. “
One thing that will help the Bucks in their quest to get more to the free throw line in Game 2 is that Antetokounmpo continues to feel better after his return from a left knee injury.
After Antetokounmpo went from dubious to questionable, and then finally got into the starting lineup, a week after suffering a terrifying slump in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Atlanta, he finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Most importantly for Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo finished the game smoothly and said Wednesday that he was feeling fine and would be ready for Game 2.
“Everything this morning has been positive and clean,” Budenholzer said. “I think we will move a bit and I think we will get continued feedback in the next period, but so far so good.
“Looking at the movie there are some things he can do better and there are some things he did well and the same as in our group. I think the thing about Giannis is that he always improves, if for some reason he has missed some days or some games And again, like many players probably, it will get better as we go along. “