The NBA has told the Brooklyn Nets to stop screwing with Giannis Antetokounmpo, and it’s a move that’s quite unnecessary. From the looks of it, Antetokounmpo is doing a fine job of screwing with Antetokounmpo in the NBA playoffs. He doesn’t need help in that department.
The Milwaukee Bucks star has turned into a liability in the easiest part of basketball: shooting free throws. Any gimmick the Nets try throwing at him now runs the risk of snapping him back into acceptable form.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a liability at the free-throw line
Antetokounmpo used to be a reliable 72% free-throw shooter during the NBA regular season, but he has developed a reputation for becoming shaky from the line in playoff games.
He remains a career 71.7% shooter in the regular season for his career despite a second straight shaky season, but the number slips to 61.8% in the postseason. And the dropoff has been even more pronounced recently. He made 58.0% of his attempts in the 2020 playoffs and is logging 53.5% in six postseason games this spring.
By way of compassion, long-retired Boston Celtics big man Robert Parish converted 72.1% during the season and 72.2% in the playoffs for his career. More recently, LeBron James actually shoots better from the line during the playoffs than in the regular season throughout his career: 74.0% to 73.3%.
So, what’s going on with Antetokounmpo? For starters, his process is broken. After taking the ball at the line, he dribbles a few times from a semi-crouched position. He then straightens his 6-foot-11 frame and fires with an inconsistent release point; the misses are more frequent when he shoots while his upper body is still uncoiling, at times releasing while his head and shoulders are moving away from the rim just enough to be noticeable.
The NBA has told the Nets to knock off the psych job
Brooklyn annihilated the Bucks, 125-86, on Monday to take a 2-0 series lead. The Eastern Conference semifinals resume Thursday in Milwaukee. If the series lasts long enough to return to Barclays Center for Game 5, Antetokounmpo can expect a more pleasant ambiance.
That’s because the NBA has told the Nets to cease displaying a stopwatch on the Jumbotron screen to call out possible 10-second violations by Antetokounmpo at the free-throw line, Anthony Puccio of Front Office Sports tweeted.
Brooklyn fans became riled as Antetokounmpo came close to the 10-second threshold occasionally during the first two games of the series. Even if he couldn’t see the stopwatch, Antetokounmpo knew it was there. It was just one more factor for the two-time MVP to deal with while shooting a combined 2-for-10. Going back to 2019, he has made two-thirds or more of his free throws in just six of Milwaukee’s last 19 playoff games.
The 10-second issue is real for Antetokounmpo
A basketball fan can watch a lifetime’s worth of games and not see the call that took place May 22 during the Bucks’ Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
With 1:06 to play and Milwaukee leading, 97-96, the officials whistled Antetokounmpo for a 10-second violation while attempting a free throw.
The whistle came a split-second before Antetokounmpo released the ball and wiped a point off the board. That contributed to sending the game to overtime, though the Bucks prevailed to launch their series sweep.
After the game, Antetokounmpo admitted that he probably received a warning about the length of time he was taking to shoot free throws. And yet, he continues to push his luck during the most important games of the year.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.