Bucks GM Jon Horst on Game 3: “That was not a quality playoff basketball game, and I think the officiating played a part”

Following the Bucks’ 103-101 win in Game 3, the Celtics were unhappy with the game officials.

They believed that Bucks guard Jrue Holiday fouled Celtics guard Marcus Smart on a 3-point attempt with 4.6 seconds remaining and that Smart deserved three free throws. Smart and head coach Ime Udoka passionately argued for his position on the court, but the referees disagreed, instead awarding him just two. In the end, Smart perfectly executed the Celtics’ game plan to make the first and miss the second to give the Celtics a chance to tie the score, but his efforts failed and the Bucks closed out with a win. After the game, the Celtics continued to make their case.

“He caught the ball, he was converting on his shot, both feet set. Can’t say it was a sweep. You’re going to make a shot,” said Udoka. “Poor call, poor no-call. I saw it in person, but I also just saw it in a movie. it’s a shot. Curving into a shot, he gets a foul on the way up. Bad missed call.”

On Sunday, the league released its final two-minute officiating report for Game 3 and listed the foul as a confirmed correct penalty, adding: “Holiday (MIL) fouls making arm contact on Smart (BOS) before he is bringing the ball up towards the basket. A personal foul is sanctioned correctly”.

While the final sequence garnered most of the attention, it didn’t appear to be Boston’s only complaint with Game 3 officiating. During his postgame media availability, Udoka referenced the highly physical nature of Saturday’s game. and his belief that he should be the one complaining to officials, not his players.

“If they’re going to call it that way, consistently on both ends, we have to play and not complain about the calls and respond,” Udoka said.

The game’s ever-present physicality was also a topic in the Bucks’ press room after Game 3, but neither Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer nor Giannis Antetokounmpo decided to push the issue of refereeing when reporters give them the chance. Holiday, however, chose a different tack when asked about Antetokounmpo’s ability to efficiently score 42 points while consistently playing through contact.

“It’s what he does, to be completely honest,” Holiday said. “We only got half as many free throws from him, 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 going to be that way for the rest of the series.”

And apparently, Holiday wasn’t alone in that sentiment.

The Bucks, as an organization, were unsatisfied with several things related to officiating in Game 3, including the disparity in free throw attempts (34 for Boston, 17 for Milwaukee) and the Celtics attempting 17 free throws in the last 4:33 p.m. of the match. the game (11 times in the fourth quarter), while the Bucks did not attempt a single free throw during that same time frame.

“I mean it honestly: I respect that, at the end of the day, it’s hard work, right? I couldn’t do his job. You couldn’t do his job,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said Sunday night in an exclusive interview with the athletic. “Refereeing is difficult, just like playing is difficult and training is difficult, and I think we all have the standard of trying to get better and better. And at the end of the day, that’s what caught my eye. We need to improve. That was not a quality playoff basketball game, and I think officiating played a part in that.”

While Holiday and Antetokounmpo hinted at how the team felt about officiating throughout the game and immediately after the game, the organization’s opinion was cemented once it was able to review the stats and also review the game tape of what was one of the most physical playoffs. games in recent memory.

“When you start looking at the numbers, it’s just outrageous,” Horst said. “And I think our players and the players in Boston just deserve to be addressed and looked at and just improved a little bit.”

“I understand how hard the job is and the things that happen, but at the end of the day you just want a fair game. I think the stats really speak for themselves.”

In his conversation with the athleticHorst shared a few points that illustrate the team’s perspective.

The list of statistics, shared with the athletic, began with the overall free throw disparity for both teams, but included more detail about the free throw disparity in the fourth quarter. For example, using tracking data, the Bucks claimed that the Celtics attempted 11 free throws on 14 drives in the fourth quarter, while the Bucks’ 10 drives resulted in zero free throws.

The Bucks breakdown also included a number of stats for individual players:

  • In the first three quarters, Antetokounmpo made 12 shots in the paint and attempted 12 free throws. In the fourth quarter, Antetokounmpo made eight shots in the paint but did not attempt a free throw.
  • Holiday became the first player since 1993 to take 30 shots in a playoff game and not attempt a single free throw. Holiday made 14 of his 30 shots in the paint.
  • Both Derrick White (eight) and Jaylen Brown (11) posted career highs in playoff free throw attempts in a single game. White took six shots total, with only two of those shots reaching the paint.

“Jrue Holiday, 30 field goal attempts, it’s not like this guy is just a jump shooter,” Horst said. “He’s a big, physical, strong shooting guard who’s also, by the way, an elite guy who gets down the line. I mean, he’s top, whatever, 80th percentile, 90th percentile in free throw attempts this season, and probably somewhere along his career.

“Making 30 shots, which is great, I applaud Jrue for doing everything he could to help our team win yesterday, and he felt like he needed to be so assertive and aggressive, but to have zero free throw attempts, that’s valid. outside.”

While the overall numbers drew most of the Bucks’ ire, they also took issue with a specific play the umpires didn’t call in the second quarter.

With the shot clock running out on one possession, Grayson Allen attempted to shoot a step-back 3 on Robert Williams, but was blocked in the backcourt. As Allen ran to chase him, he and Jayson Tatum became entangled in a fumble fight, and Allen grabbed Tatum’s right hand. The contact sent Tatum to the ground, but the play continued. Allen passed the ball to Holiday, who attempted a contested 3-pointer on the right wing as Allen smashed the offensive glass.

As Holiday’s shot went through the net, Grant Williams crossed the lane and threw a shoulder to Allen, who knocked him to the ground.

“These are difficult games to referee. Playoff basketball is tough. All basketball is difficult,” Horst said. “And I think overall the physicality of the game and how each team plays has been a benefit to both teams. I think people like to see that. And it’s a fun brand of playoff basketball.

“But I would just say, and I know they’re self-reflective because they’re good at their jobs, but Grant Williams’ play on Grayson, it’s just off the mark. Anyone who has seen that play knows it was dangerous. Grayson was sore last night. He was sore again this morning. I think he will play in Game 4, but it was a dangerous play. It wasn’t a basketball play. And it’s out of place.”

Grand Williams’ body check on Allen was not called and was largely undiscussed after the game, but the play stuck with Horst a day later and exemplified the kind of play the Bucks believe crosses the line. physicality of the playoffs. With two teams emphasizing tough defense, the physical game will continue, but only time will tell if referees will allow defenses to be as physical in the future, especially now that both teams have raised concerns about it.


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(Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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