Giannis Antetokounmpo had no problem with his free throws — or his opponent — in Game 2.
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ lopsided victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals overshadowed all the pregame concerns about his lengthy free-throw routine.
Antetokounmpo made three of four free throws and never faced any issues about violations of the 10-second rule in the Bucks’ 125-91 runaway win that evened the series at 1-1. Game 3 is Sunday night in Atlanta.
Officials entered the game facing renewed pressure to enforce the 10-second rule. The controversy placed Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP, further in the spotlight.
He thrived under pressure, scoring 25 points with nine rebounds and six assists.
Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws in his first visit to the line with 3:24 remaining in the first period and both free throws in his only other opportunity late in the first half. He appeared to find a mix between sticking to his routine without taking the full 10 seconds.
He insisted he didn’t rush his routine.
“No. It was take eight or nine seconds,” he said, adding he only speeds up his time at the line when told by his coaches or officials during a game it is necessary.
“Then I make an effort to make it a second or two faster,” Antetokounmpo said. On Friday night, however, he said his focus was to “get my breath and just shoot my shot.”
He made 11 of 18 shots from the field while spending most of his time near the basket, especially early in the game.
Antetokounmpo impressed his teammates with an early spin move past Solomon Hill before then moving past Hawks center Clint Capela for a basket and a 9-3 lead.
“I had never seen that move,” said Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton. “That’s a hell of a move. That’s got to be top 10 of all time.”
Questions about his free-throw routine gained momentum after the NBA said Antetokounmpo should have been called for 10-second violations on both free throws he shot with 5.3 seconds remaining in the Hawks’ 116-113 Game 1 win on Wednesday night. Antetokounmpo made both free throws, trimming the Hawks’ lead to 114-113.
Budenholzer predicted before the game his star forward wouldn’t be affected by the furor over his routine.
“He’s got his routine,” Budenholzer said. “It’s been a big topic of conversation. I get it. I understand it. I think he’s in a good place.”
Budenholzer said the NBA isn’t officiated with a stopwatch, whether on a 10-second rule at the free throw line or the 3 seconds players are allowed to be in the paint.
“If you took a clock on an out-of-bounds play, how many times would it take more than five seconds if they wanted to put a stopwatch on it?” Budenholzer asked.
Antetokounmpo’s habit of taking longer than the maximum 10 seconds allowed by NBA rule is not new.
“I think the whole league notices it, to be honest,” Hawks rookie center Onyeka Okongwu said. “Everyone knows Giannis gets 10-second violations at the free throw line. … Everyone knows it’s longer than most people’s routine is.”
Antetokounmpo has been called for 10-second violations twice during the postseason. He was called for his first with just over a minute left in regulation in the Bucks’ 109-107 overtime victory over Miami in Game 1 of the first round. The second came during the Bucks’ 86-83 Game 3 triumph in their second-round series with Brooklyn.
The league’s 10-second rule is clear.
According to the NBA’s Rule No. 9, Section 1-a, “When a free throw is awarded, an official shall put the ball in play by delivering it to the free throw shooter. The shooter shall be above the free throw line and within the upper half of the free throw circle. He shall attempt the free throw within 10 seconds of controlling the ball in such a way that the ball enters the basket or touches the ring.”
“It’s a rule that we want them to call,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said before the game. “The NBA announced that should have been called and we hope if that happens again that it is called.”
Some opposing fans have counted past 10 when he stood at the line, the ball still in his hands.
Brooklyn’s James Harden appeared to show his displeasure with Antetokounmpo’s extended stay at the line on multiple occasions during their seven-game series. Harden was animated as he endured long waits for Antetokounmpo, who sometimes asks a referee to delay giving him the ball so he can practice his form first.
Antetokounmpo was voted MVP in 2019 and 2020. He led Milwaukee with 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the Game 1 loss.
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