Playoffs 2019 East Semifinals: Bucks (1) vs. Celtics (4)

Irving complains about Antetokounmpo free throws

With his team utterly incapable of keeping Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo off the foul line through three games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving did the next best thing — appealing to the officials for more favorable treatment moving forward via a lengthy postgame complaint.

Antetokounmpo shot a series-high 22 free throws in Friday’s Game 3, converting 16 en route to 32 points as the Bucks triumphed, 123-116, to take a 2-1 series lead.

That gave Antetokounmpo a whopping 50 free throws so far, with his single-game totals increasing each outing in a development Irving described as “getting ridiculous.”

“It’s just slowing the (expletive) game down,” said Irving, who drew 12 free shots. “Hopefully we can even out the free throws, not just in the fourth quarter. The refs have a difficult job. We have a difficult job. I can sit up here and complain. We know the disparity and what it is. I’m not going to put all the emphasis on the refereeing.

“We know how many free throws (Antetokounmpo) has shot per game. He’s a great player in our league. We know how many times he goes to the basket and gets contact. We also know how many times we got to the basket and get contact. When you get into the bonus with eight minutes left in the third, it’s a shocker.

“The officiating, we’re going to leave them alone next game. We’re going to do a better job of walling up and staying straight up, to make sure there aren’t any eye-catching calls.”

Despite Antetokounmpo’s massive total, the Bucks shot just four more total free throws in Game 3, 36-32. It was the same in Game 2, when Antetokounmpo took 18 foul shots and the Bucks held a 31-27 edge.

Interestingly, the biggest disparity was Game 1, which the Celtics dominated despite being outshot 24-8 at the line. The key, however, was limiting Antetokounmpo — who has finished second behind Houston’s James Harden in free throw attempts in each of the past two seasons — to “just” 10 as he shot 7-for-21 from the floor.

But Antetokounmpo’s aggressiveness is illustrated via his series shot chart, with 37 of his 49 shots coming in the paint. That was especially the case in Game 3, when 12 of his 13 shots came at or near the rim.

Which is probably why Celtics coach Brad Stevens, when asked to comment on Friday’s officiating, took a hard pass.

“I don’t complain about officials,” he said. “We have a lot of stuff we have to do better. We focus on us and what we can control. That’s the bottom line.”