The Game 3 clash between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets felt like a late ‘90s playoff game. With a final scoreline of 86-83, it was a slog that involved terrible shooting (by modern NBA standards at least), from both teams.
The visiting Nets shot 34 of 94 (36%) from the field while the Bucks hit 34 of 90 (37.8%) of their field goals. It was even worse from the three-point line, as the two teams combined to shot 14 of 63 points.
The game started off looking like a big game for the Bucks, who finished the first quarter ahead 30-11, but then their offense imploded in the second quarter as the Nets cut the lead by outscoring them 31-15. In the more fast-paced NBA of the last few years, the 45-42 halftime score was less than impressive.
Kevin Durant, in particular, struggled in the first half as he went 2 of 11 from the field. He did finish with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a block for the game, but needed to take 28 shots to get there. Kyrie Irving had 22 points, 5 rebounds, an assist, and 3 steals but similarly had to take 22 shots to hit his marker.
Khris Middleton, who had been just awful through the first two games of this series, finally showed up and was the game’s leading scorer with 35 points and 15 rebounds. He shot the ball well, going 12 of 25 (3 of 6 from three) and 8 of 9 from the free throw line.
Jrue Holiday, who’s struggled for the whole series as well, went 4 of 14 from the field and finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, but he made the game’s most important basket, a go-ahead layup with 11.4 seconds left that made it 84-83.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a good game too, and made 13 of 23 of his two pointers. He finished with 33 points and 14 rebounds, but let’s acknowledge that he made a lot of stupid decisions in the game that almost bit the Bucks in the ass. He went 1 of 8 from beyond the arc, taking more threes than anyone on his team even though it’s simply not his shot. He also continued to struggled from the charity stripe as he went 4 of 9.
The Greek Freak did hit 2 of 5 threes in Game 1, but then followed that up by going 0 of 3 in Game 2. Responding to those two games by shooting 8 shots in Game 3 is not going to be a good long-term strategy. Now I’d understand if Giannis spent an entire summer working on the shot, but the numbers do not show a convincing story for him continuing to do this.
In the regular season, he shot averaged 3.6 threes a game and made 1.1 of them. In their first round series against the Heat, he regressed badly and averaged 0.3 makes out of 4.0 attempts per game.
Over three games, Antetokounmpo has made 3 of 16 three-pointers, an average of 1 make on 5.3 shots per game. That’s going to be a killer for the Bucks, because they can’t bank on both Irving and Durant to shooting that badly in the same game again.
Credit has to go to the Nets defense though, as it feels like Antetokounmpo is starting to take more of those threes out of frustration. Brooklyn have done a good job of trying to close the lane, and while no one’s ever going to stop Giannis from getting into the paint for an entire game, cutting away some of those driving lanes and easy bucket opportunities is clearly playing into his head like it has in years past.
Antetokounmpo doesn’t deserve all the the blame, either. Mike Budenholzer needs to hold him more accountable, and hopefully the Bucks coach can get through to him.
Milwaukee will be happy with a 1-2 series deficit for now, but they’ve got a lot of things to look at if they’re going to have any hope of advancing.