Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and the Brooklyn Nets certainly didn’t look like a team that was missing one of the best players in the league in James Harden, as they raced out to a 2-0 lead over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in a 39-point bludgeoning that was somehow not as close as the score indicated.
Griffin, one of the biggest stars from Monday night, might get a class action lawsuit thrown at him from the city of Detroit, as the player who was relegated to spot-up shooting with the Pistons looked absolutely nothing like the small ball enter that was attacking the basket and helping secure the paint against a very deep Milwaukee team.
Against a Bucks squad that thrives on Giannis dominating in the paint, a formula that has been proven successful against Brooklyn earlier this season, Griffin has taken on the responsibility of keeping No. 34 out of the interior, and thanks to both his efforts and some questionable calls from Mike Budenholzer, that plan has worked.
The Nets are going to put up points thanks to their offensive talent, but the lack of attention being paid to Griffin on both ends of the floor has been a major factor in Milwaukee’s struggles to this point in the series.
Blake Griffin and the Brooklyn Nets took advantage of Milwaukee.
His 8.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game since his Game 1 stinker against Boston doesn’t sound totally impressive, but Griffin has been able to hit wide-open 3-pointers and finish easy shot opportunities, which is really all the Nets need him to do.
The key factor that has turned the tide of this series, however, is a defensively deficient Griffin making an effort to keep Antetokounmpo out of the paint, thus limiting his effectiveness and making it tougher for Milwaukee’s collection of elite shooters to make as much of an impact due to a lack of open shots.
Griffin deserves plenty of praise for his performances on a team lacking size, but he’s mostly taking advantage of another confusing game plan from Budenholzer. On a team that will live and die on Giannis’ performance, Budenholzer isn’t taking advantage of the Greek Freak’s very unique skill set in this series.
Milwaukee’s game plan makes no sense.
Giannis made all five of his shots inside of the restricted area last night, and he made good on eight of his 10 attempts in the paint. Outside of the paint, he failed to make a single shot. We’ve known that Giannis isn’t the best shooter in the world, so Budenholzer might do whatever he can to get Giannis as many paint points as possible.
Since he is refusing to do so, as Giannis taking 10 shots in the paint in three quarters is disgusting mismanagement, Griffin has become more effective on the defensive end. His ability to challenge jump shots makes up for the fact he lacks the raw power to stand with a speeding locomotive like Giannis.
Even without Harden, Brooklyn’s vision on offense is starting to come to fruition. Their superstars will obviously get buckets, but the true danger of this offense is making players like Griffin and Joe Harris afterthoughts on both ends of the floor for the opponent. The Bucks are finding out the hard way that not paying attention to Blake is a harmful strategy.
As the series shifts to Milwaukee, expect Giannis to try and attack Griffin down in the paint more frequently. If he still fails to get some consistent looks at home against Griffin and the Nets, the already tall task of coming back might be next to impossible. The Nets will need to send the Pistons a thank-you card.