Bucks' Mike Budenholzer Calls Free-Throw Disparity in Game 1 vs. Suns 'Frustrating'

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 8, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer argues with officials during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Bucks 118-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

The Phoenix Suns made 25 of 26 free throws en route to defeating the Milwaukee Bucks 118-105 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

Milwaukee did not have as much success from the line, going 9-of-16. Suns shooting guard Devin Booker notably made one more free throw than the entire Bucks team. In addition, all Bucks not named Giannis Antetokounmpo went just 2-of-4 from the line.

On Wednesday, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was asked about the free-throw attempt difference, and he provided this response, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps.

"You trying to bait me?" Budenholzer said as he smiled.

"No, I mean, it's a huge part of the game. They had 25 points from the free throw line. We're a team that prides ourselves in defending and being able to be good defensively without fouling.
"I can't remember the last time a team got 25 free throws in a game against the Bucks. And then conversely, the way Giannis [Antetokounmpo] attacks, the way Khris [Middleton] attacks, as many opportunities as Khris has with the ball...it's frustrating, but it's part of the sport. It's part of the game.
"We've got to be better defensively. We've got to keep them off the free throw line and we got to be more aggressive attacking and getting to the free throw line and getting to good offense."

Referees called four more personal fouls on the Bucks (18-14).

As Bontemps noted, the Bucks have allowed their opponent to shoot 26 or more free throws in the playoffs just twice this year. The other time was when the Miami Heat hit 24 of 35 shots in Game 2 of the Bucks' first-round series sweep.

The Suns' free-throw trip number was an anomaly. Phoenix finished with the second-fewest free-throw attempts in the NBA this year with just 18.7 shots per game, per Basketball Reference. Only the Chicago Bulls took fewer shots from the line.

Milwaukee took 21.4 attempts per game, the 15th-most in the league.

The free-throw disparity certainly didn't help the Bucks, but Suns point guard Chris Paul (32 points, nine assists), Booker (27 points) and Deandre Ayton (22 points, 19 rebounds) were all tremendous. The Bucks had a tough time slowing them down, and that ultimately led to the Suns' win.

Milwaukee will look to rebound on Thursday in Phoenix for Game 2, which starts at 9 p.m. ET.