“I’m not going to publicly complain about fouls,” said Williams. “I’m just not going to do this. But you can watch – we had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17. ”
That person was Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who recorded his second straight 40-point game in the series thanks in large part to his 13-for-17 night on the foul line at the Fiserv Forum.
The Bucks got 20 for 26 as a team, compared to 11 for 16 for the Suns.
Refereeing was already a topic of conversation coming up on Sunday, given the history between game crew chief Scott Foster and Suns point guard Chris Paul.
Counting Game 3, Paul has now lost 12 straight playoff games in which he played with Foster officiating.
There is nothing new about an NBA coach trying to sow the seed with a favorable whistle over the course of a series. It’s as much a part of the league as the iconic sneakers and back alleys.
But beyond the faults allowing Antetokounmpo to get into the rhythm, the disparity hurt the Suns the most because Deandre Ayton was called up for many of them.
Ayton, who scored 16 points on a 7-on-9 shot in 20 minutes in the first half, finished with just 18 points in 24 minutes after battling five fouls and going to the bench.
“We have to learn from this,” Williams said of Ayton’s night out. “We have to beat the guys on the spot. He’s going to grow from that, I promise you he will. “
Paul sympathized with the situation in which the 22-year-old center finds itself.
“Sometimes you will have a good whistle, sometimes you will have a bad whistle,” said Paul. “It’s hard man, Giannis is coming in full speed like a running back, you know what I mean?” “
While Williams has emphasized officiating, several of his players have focused on the self-inflicted injuries that have caused Phoenix.
“It goes back to the 50/50 bullets we lost,” said Jae Crowder, who had his best game of the series with 18 points on a 6v7 shot. “I feel like on the road , we have to win this battle. It is not a question of making punches. It’s just about mano-a-mano, making sure your guy doesn’t get it and finding the ball. Somehow you have to find a way. And I felt like once it got closer, these guys cracked a little harder tonight than us. “
Indeed, the Bucks collected 13 offensive rebounds against six of the Suns and outscored them 20-2 in second chance points.
Then there was Devin Booker, who scored just 10 points on a 3-on-14 shot – his lowest total of the playoffs – after scoring 58 points combined between Games 1 and 2.
“I think I can get better [shot attempts] “, he said. ” We will get there. The object of the game is to win it, and I think there were other things that happened throughout the game. You can say it’s a do / miss game, but at the end of the day you have to make the other team miss and get some easy opportunities for your team. We didn’t do that tonight. “
And Paul, who had 19 points and nine assists, came back to something he’s hammered home throughout the playoffs: the importance of finishing quarterbacks with strength.
Phoenix was outscored 40-9 in the final five minutes of the combined second and third quarter in Game 3.
“It was important to us,” Paul said of Milwaukee finishing third on a 24-6 surge after the Suns reduced the Bucks’ lead to four. “Even the second quarter, the second quarter, we didn’t end this quarter well. It’s something we’ve talked about all of the playoffs. So, especially on the road, you have to deal with the game. You have to deal with those quarterfinals. “
As different as the series may seem at 2-1 to 2-0, with Antetokounmpo dominating and the Bucks awaiting the pitch again in Wednesday’s Game 4, the Suns remained confident in their ability to limit the double MVP and maintain control of the Finals.
“We have enough bodies to do this job,” Crowder said of the challenge of keeping Antetokounmpo. “We just have to do it collectively and be better individually. But we have enough bodies to do it. We just haven’t done it tonight. “
Paul added, “We have to try to build a wall somehow. ”