The Boston Celtics, twice, almost managed to play the final few minutes of Friday’s game without Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor.
But both times a review bailed out the Milwaukee Bucks star, which was a not insignificant development in the Celtics’ 119-112 loss in their first seeding game.
With 2:30 left to play, the Celtics down 107-105 and Antetokounmpo playing with five fouls, he sprinted to defend Gordon Hayward, but ended up barreling right into Daniel Theis, elbowing the C’s big man’s stomach and forcing him to hunch over in pain. The referees stopped play to review the collision in an attempt to determine if it was a “hostile act.”
They determined it wasn’t, and in making the ruling did not even give a personal foul to Antetokounmpo, which would have ended his night.
“They just said he didn’t get hit in the stomach, they said they could not call a personal foul,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following the game. “So that must be a — when you go to the review to see if it’s a hostile act I guess you can’t call a personal foul. So that was what they told me, so we moved on.”
Here was the referee’s explanation.
NBA Referee James Capers Comments to a pool reporter after tonight's Celtics-Bucks game: pic.twitter.com/vbIPwg7ZOa
— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) August 1, 2020
Marcus Smart later drew an offensive foul on Antetokounmpo a minute after the power forward ran into him on a drive to the rim. But that too was reviewed and overturned, with Smart getting called for a blocking foul. From the time Antetokounmpo collided with Theis to the end of the game he put up six points, so him fouling out obviously could’ve had major ramifications.
It prompted smart to throw some shade at the officials following the game.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Celtics-Bucks game:
— Even as the Celtics hung around in the fourth quarter, Stevens never thought twice about his decision not to put Kemba Walker back into the game.
The team is exercising extreme caution as they ramp up the star point guard so as not to set his knee back. As a result, he entered Friday on an minutes restrictions, finishing at 19:08.
“I’m not playing that game,” Stevens said when asked if he thought about putting Walker back in during the fourth quarter. “Kemba’s knee is the most important thing, we’re trying to strengthen it. His 18-20 minutes, whatever he ended up with, that was part of the plan. We weren’t going to stretch that. It’s hard after you come out at the end of the third to be inserted for a couple of minutes, but no (we weren’t putting him back in).”
Walker said he knew he was not going back in, so even though he wanted to keep playing he knew it wasn’t going to happen.
Walker was replaced with Brad Wanamaker with 5:12 remaining in the third. At that point, the Celtics were trailing 76-74. He finished his night with 16 points, two assists and one rebound.
— With Walker on a minutes restriction, the Celtics got an encouraging performance from Wanamaker off the bench. The reserve guard put up 14 points with six rebounds, an assist and a pair of steals.
It seems the Celtics, at least in the seeding round, are going to be extra careful with Walker, so we could see a lot of Wanamaker in the next couple weeks. And, with the uncertainty around Walker’s knee, Wanamaker logging big minutes in the postseason is not out of the realm of possibility.
Though it’s probably safe to say the Celtics might not get that kind of performance out of Wanamaker every night, him chipping in via a myriad of ways must give Stevens peace of mind as he goes slow with Walker.
— Stevens played with a nine-man rotation, but ultimately checked in 10 guys. Wanamaker, Smart, Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye all played north of 10 minutes off the bench. Grant Williams was the 10th guy, playing just 4:15.
Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards and Robert Williams all were left on the bench.
Thumbnail photo via Ashley Landis/Pool USA TODAY Sports Images