Antetokounmpo’s horrendous free throw shooting in Bucks’ season finale was one for the ages


The Milwaukee Bucks recently fired Mike Budenholzer as their head coach after the team was unceremoniously jettisoned from the NBA playoffs.

The heavily-favored Bucks, the No. 1 seed, were shocked by the Miami Heat, the No. 8 seed, in five games.

While Budenholzer was the scapegoat for the Bucks’ epic failure, arguably the worst in NBA history, there were a plethora of other culprits for the team’s unexpected demise.

Perhaps the biggest one was Giannis Antetokounmpo and his horrendous free throw shooting in the decisive game, which the Bucks lost by just two points – 128-126 – in overtime in Milwaukee.

In that game, Antetokounmpo made only 10 of 23 free throws. A player missing 13 free throws in any game is inexcusable. A player missing 13 free throws in a playoff game is disastrous.

In fact, you seldom see a team miss that many free throws in a playoff game. Take, for example, Game 4 of the Boston-Philadelphia playoff series last Sunday, a riveting game that Philadelphia won 116-115.

The Celtics converted on 16 of 22 free throws attempts, and the 76ers made 19 of 22 FT attempts. In other words, the teams combined to shoot 44 throws … and missed just nine.

Antetokounpo’s free throw shooting was so pathetic that I couldn’t recall when any player, much less a star player, missed 13 free throws in an elimination game.

My initial inclination was that maybe Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain, or both, might have been equally inept in an important elimination playoff game.

Well, my curiosity prompted me to contract the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau. And, as I’ve come to expect, they had the answer.

It turns out nobody had shot free throws in an elimination game as poorly as Antetokounmpo in TWO DECADES. It last happened in 2003 when Detroit’s Ben Wallace also went 10-for-23 in Game 6 of the opening round of the playoffs.

Wallace and Antetokounmpo, as Elias points out, are only two of three players in the history of the NBA to blow 13 or more free throws in a close-out game.

The other was Chamberlain. The Dipper went 8 of 25 from the line in a playoff game in 1966 – or 57 years ago.

So, while Budenholzer took the bulk of the blame for the Bucks stunningly premature playoff departure, you can vividly see Antetokounmpo had more than something to do with it as well.

Bonus shots

The Bucks are one of three teams currently in the market for a new head coach, the others being Detroit and Toronto.

Could San Antonio possibly be the next?

There has been ample speculation about Gregg Popovich, the Spurs’ longtime legendary coach, and whether he may be hanging up the clipboard. It would make sense. After all, Popovich is 74.

But some NBA officials are pumping the brakes on the Popovich retirement talk. They say the NBA’s Draft Lottery, set for next Tuesday night, could possibly play a role in whether Popovich stays or goes.

“I think Pop wouldn’t mind coaching the French kid,’’ an NBA executive said about Victor Wembanyama, the supremely gifted 7-foot-4 do-it-all player who is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.

“I think he (Wembanyama) would re-energize Pop. I think he’d really love to coach that guy.’’

The Spurs, who went 22-60 this season, have a 14 percent chance of landing the top pick – the same as Detroit and Houston. Charlotte and Portland have the fourth- and fifth-best odds at 12.5 and 10.5 percent, respectively.

Newton is in the mix for Wizards GM job

Milt Newton, the Bucks assistant general manager, is still being linked to the vacant Washington Wizards general manager’s position.

Newton, who has been the Bucks assistant GM since 2017, has come up short in recent years for some head GM openings, including Minnesota.

  • Sources said in the aftermath of Budenholzer’s firing that his assistant coaches were informed they are free to pursue jobs with other teams.
  • One of the Bucks assistant coaches – Charles Lee – is a finalist for the vacant Detroit Pistons head coaching position. The other finalists are Kevin Ollie and Jarron Collins. Several NBA sources contend Ollie is likely to land the job.