How the Celtics became first NBA team to play a game without getting a foul shot

How the Celtics became first NBA team to play a game without getting a foul shot

MILWAUKEE — With 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter of the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 104-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo was fouled by Luke Kornet while going up for a putback attempt and made one of his two free throw attempts. That was the first and last time anyone went to the free throw line in the game. 

The lack of free throws resulted in a record-setting game that was over in less than two hours. 

“Man, Adam Silver’s the happiest,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said. “1:57 game time. My goodness, you can go to a game and still have dinner. Unbelievable. 

“I thought it was a physical game, and then they handed me the stat sheet, and I told them, ‘No, I need the full game.’ I thought it was the halftime stats. I didn’t look at the minutes. And then I said, ‘Wow, two free throws for a basketball game. That’s crazy.'”

Here’s a quick look at some of the new entries into the record books:

  • The two combined free throws are the fewest in a game in NBA history, destroying the previous low of 11 set by the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons on Nov. 10, 2019.
  • The Celtics became the first team ever to shoot zero free throws in a game. Previoiusly, the low mark had been shared by the Atlanta Hawks (2014) and Memphis Grizzlies (2018), each of whom attempted one free throw. 
  • The Bucks’ four fouls were the fewest ever committed in a full game. 

“Another day in the NBA,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said while shaking his head. “I don’t know. Maybe just gearing up for the playoffs. They’re going to let a lot of things go, so I guess just getting us ready for playoff basketball.”

The two teams combined for a whopping 88 3-point attempts, compared to just 66 shots in the paint, which helps to partly explain the lack of free throws. There were also what appeared to be some missed calls on both sides. This Xavier Tillman drive stands out as one where a shooting foul could have been called. 

It’s also worth pointing out that Ben Taylor, a member of the game’s officiating crew, was making his return from a two-month absence from illness, per Jared Greenberg

Whatever the reasons, this game was the starkest example yet of the decline in free throw attempts since the All-Star break. 

Prior to the mid-season hiatus, the Philadelphia 76ers led the league with 26.5 attempts per game, while the Charlotte Hornets were last at 19.0 attempts. The Toronto Raptors‘ 22.3 attempts were smack in the middle at 15th in the league. Since play resumed, the Houston Rockets are first in the league at 23.4 per game, the Raptors remain at 15th with 20.2 and the Warriors are last at 15.7. 

“It was weird, but it seems to be the trend,” Bucks star Damian Lillard said. “Fouls are not a part of the game no more. It’s like, I’ve had times where I thought I was getting fouled, and there’s been other times where I was surprised a foul didn’t get called on me, where I might bump somebody or get a piece of somebody’s arm and they don’t call it, and I’m like, ‘Man, they’re really just letting us play.'”

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