Giannis Antetokounmpo’s late-game foul trouble against the Boston Celtics was reminiscent of other performances early in the season.
While everyone was excited that basketball was back after a nearly five-month hiatus, one person, in particular that could not contain his excitement was MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Milwaukee Bucks kicked off the first of their eight seeding games Friday night against the Boston Celtics in a game filled with controversy towards the end.
Playing with five fouls with just over two minutes left in regulation, Antetokounmpo avoided his sixth foul after fighting through a screen set by Daniel Theis with an apparent push. The officials went to the replay monitor to see if it was a “hostile act” despite not calling a foul initially, but found nothing abnormal and play went on.
Soon after, Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart seemingly drew a charge from Antetokounmpo, which would have fouled him out of the game. However, upon review, the call got reversed, and Giannis got rewarded with an And-1 rather than fouling out. To the dismay of Boston fans, it was indeed the correct call, as Antetokounmpo was already off his feet by the time Smart set his feet. Milwaukee went on to seal the 119-112 victory, and Antetokounmpo shared his thoughts on the calls postgame, particularly the charge.
As relayed by Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Antetokounmpo commented:
“They saw that he was moving while I was in the air and they overturning the call, so I was able to stay in the game and help my team, “Antetokounmpo said. “But either way, even if I was out of the game, I’d still try to find a way to cheer my team on, but thank God, they overturned the play and I was able to stay in the game.”
When asked about the root of his foul issues, Giannis Antetokounmpo recalled that this seems to be a common occurrence for him after any form of a layoff.
“I feel like I always do this,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know whenever I get excited and whenever I come back from the offseason or whenever I come back from a long break, I’m just excited. I’m just reaching all the time. I try to go for steals. I’m just aggressive.
“Sometimes, I get out of control, but that’s how I learn. That’s how I learn. So sometimes, you have to make mistakes to learn and today I learned from my mistakes.”
Antetokounmpo’s case of the basketball-returning jitters was nothing new, as the MVP found himself in a similar position to kick off the 2019-20 season in the team’s first two games. Giannis fouled out in both the season opener against the Houston Rockets and then the very next game against the Miami Heat, which he also similarly attributed to excitement in conversation with Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Stop being really excited,” Antetokounmpo said when asked how his team could limit fouls. “Stop reaching. Make sure that you know you have help behind you. If a guy goes by you, there’s help, there’s Brook (Lopez), there’s me. So you don’t have to foul.
“But definitely being less excited. When you’re extremely excited you start reaching a lot. You play a little dumb, you get stupid fouls. But we’re going to get better at that part, too.”
A man of his word, Antetokounmpo, cooled down and only fouled out two more times in the next 56 games. The rest of the team followed as Milwaukee rank in the bottom-10 teams in personal fouls per game. Hopefully, the same occurs in the restart as Giannis continues to find a steady rhythm after he shakes off any early over-eagerness.