The play in question occurred with 13 seconds remaining in overtime, with the Bucks trailing 110-107. After Antetokounmpo missed the second of two free throws and tried to tie up Celtics guard Terry Rozier for a jump ball, the All-Star big man was whistled for his sixth and final foul, and he angrily jumped up in frustration as a couple of his teammates stood in front of him so he wasn’t whistled for a technical on his way off the floor.
“I don’t think that was a foul,” Antetokounmpo said. “I grabbed the ball. But the ref said that I grabbed his hand. I just got to live with that call and just move forward because that’s what players do. Hopefully next time I can knock down the free throw and not get into that situation.”
Antetokounmpo, who finished with 35 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, found himself in a similar situation moments earlier, when he was the beneficiary of a different kind of call. With a minute remaining in the game, Bucks swingman Khris Middleton missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game. Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum grabbed the rebound as Antetokounmpo came over his back to tie him up for a jump ball. Celtics players and coaches howled for a foul call as the sellout crowd of 18,264 at TD Garden voiced its collective displeasure.
As the Bucks reflect on the emotional loss, they know they could have made plenty of plays throughout the course of the game, but the final foul call on Antetokounmpo was a point of contention. Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty’s frustration with the call was obvious when he described his reaction to the play.
“My view is he blew his whistle and called the sixth foul on Giannis,” Prunty said. “And at six fouls, you’re out of the game.”
Did Prunty get an explanation?“[The officials said] that he fouled him, and that was the sixth foul.”
What made the play more confusing — and irritating, from a Bucks point of view — was that referee Jason Phillips initially called the foul on Antetokounmpo while another official called a jump ball from his angle.
As the Bucks get set for Game 2 on Tuesday in Boston, Antetokounmpo is hopeful that his team can clean up the mistakes that forced it into such a precarious position in the first place. Notably, the Bucks turned the ball over 20 times and were out-rebounded by the Celtics 45-42.
“We got to take care of the ball in Game 2,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully we can get back and rebound the ball because when we rebound the ball, we’re really dangerous; we can run, we can do a lot of things. So hopefully in Game 2, we can rebound the ball, too.”