Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks saved their season, at least for now, with an ugly 86-83 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 on Thursday. The Bucks blew an early 30-9 lead and looked doomed when Kevin Durant buried a 3-pointer to put the Nets up 83-80 late, but Milwaukee made enough plays to finish the game as Brooklyn malfunctioned in the final moments.
Giannis and Khris Middleton did essentially all the offensive damage for the Bucks (shoutout to Jrue Holiday for his game-winning layup, though), combining for 68 of 86 points. The Greek Freak scored 33 of those points, but it was yet another maddening performance for the two-time MVP thanks to his own decision-making, Mike Budenholzer’s coaching and a circus at the free-throw line.
Antetokounmpo’s ridiculously long routine at the charity stripe is patently absurd and made even more embarrassing by his poor proficiency, but that’s something he can work on in the offseason. Something he can definitely change right now is cutting out the awful 3-point attempts, especially early in the shot clock.
The Nets are more than happy to let Giannis let it fly from deep, and he obliged by firing up eight triples and only making one of them. He’s a career 28.7% 3-point shooter and is now 4-of-32 from beyond the arc in the playoffs. The Greek Freak is getting into Josh Smith territory where there are audible groans and boos from the home crowd when he launches another 3.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the most dominant interior force in the NBA right now, so him settling for long jumpers when guys like Blake Griffin are guarding him is a total win for the defense. There’s just no reason to do it, even if totally wide open. It would be one thing if he was approaching league average on 3-pointers. But the way he’s shooting right now, he’s as bad as it gets.
While Antetokounmpo deserves some of the blame for this, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer should share some as well. Bud needs to drill it in Giannis’ head that he needs to cut it out with these shots. He needs to make sure the Bucks are running offense that doesn’t put Antetokounmpo in position to jack up these attempts. Get Giannis on the move and going to the basket, whether it’s with him as the roller in pick-and-roll or as a cutter or out in transition. It would also be helpful for him to get better in the post and use his skill set to his advantage there.
Hey, at least Bud played Giannis 43 minutes.
The Bucks were lucky to win Game 3. They only managed 56 points over the final thee quarters after putting up 30 in the first. The offense devolved again into stagnant possessions and awful shots. While Milwaukee’s defense deserves credit for holding down the mighty Nets offense, this was also a case of Brooklyn missing a bunch of shots that normally go in, plus a late-game meltdown with some Bruce Brown weirdness.
The Bucks aren’t dead yet, but they can’t afford more offensive performances like we’ve seen so far in this series. It has been an absolute mess, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s shot selection is a part of it. He must focus on what he does best and go dominate the paint against a Nets team that plays small. Go be freaky!