Blake Griffin on challenge of guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Blake Griffin did not wear a red matador cape and gesture for Giannis Antetokounmpo, way over there, to charge at him, but he might as well have. Come to me, big fella.

And he did, but not often enough, and that is good news for the Nets. The Greek Freak from long distance is often full of static, a bad connection.

In the Bucks’ 86-83 Game 3 victory, Antetokounmpo in 43 minutes scored 33 points, and the Nets can live with that output, considering how ineffective he was at times. He attempted 31 shots and hit just 14 of them. He fired up eight 3-pointers and made one of them. That is why the sight of Griffin backing up when faced up on Antetokounmpo, then backing up some more, figures to be seen early and often Sunday afternoon in Game 4 at Fiserv Forum.

Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetokounmpo battle for a loose ball during the Nets' 86-83 Game 3 loss to the Bucks.
Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetokounmpo battle for a loose ball during the Nets’ 86-83 Game 3 loss to the Bucks.

“You don’t really guard him one-on-one, you guard him by committee,’’ Griffin said Saturday after practice. “For the most part, we’ve done a solid job. I know he’s got points here and there, he had points in the last game, but we’re just trying to make it tough on him. Being physical, giving him some space, but he’s a two-time MVP so he’s going to get shots. You can’t overreact to certain things. We’ve got to stay on it and tweak a few things and be better, but overall, I think we’ve done a solid job.’’

Griffin in 30 minutes was not much of a factor on offense, with just five points, but his ability to stay in front of Antetokounmpo is critical to the Nets’ defensive game plan. The assignment for some stretches went to Nic Claxton and Kevin Durant, who also took a shot at Antetokounmpo. If Jeff Green, listed as questionable with a left foot injury, is able to make his series debut, he is another body to throw into the mix.

If Antetokounmpo wants to jack up shots from beyond the arc, Griffin, or anyone else in a Nets uniform, will not venture out to challenge him. Antetokounmpo went 1-for-16 on 3-pointers in the first round, but the Bucks had no trouble sweeping the Heat. He is 3-for-16 in three games against the Nets.

“The person guarding me was far back, but at the end of the day they’re always far back,’’ Antetokounmpo said, explaining his eight 3-point attempts in Game 3. “Just picking and choosing when I feel good, when I want to be aggressive, get to my spots as much as possible, try to get my teammates involved as much as possible. But just being in the moment and just getting the best decision from each moment, that was my mindset.’’

The Bucks got 79 percent (68-of-86) of their points from two players, Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, and that unbalanced distribution does not feel like a winning formula. Middleton awakened after a horrid first two games — he shot 30 percent from the floor and scored a total of 30 points in two Nets victories. He pumped in 35 points in Game 3, making 12 of his 25 shots.

“I don’t think we played him with the same physicality, at least not to start the game in Game 3, but he hit some shots,’’ Griffin said. “He and Giannis came out and they were very aggressive to start in the first quarter especially. So we have to match that intensity and match that physicality.’’

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