Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points and the Milwaukee Bucks opened their first title defense in half a century by beating the Brooklyn Nets 127-104 on Tuesday night.
In his first game since scoring 50 points in a Game 6 of the NBA Finals title win over the Phoenix Suns, Antetokounmpo also tallied 14 rebounds and seven assists.
Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton each added 20 points to help the Bucks withstand the loss to Jrue Holiday, who missed the second half with a bruised right heel after scoring 12 points.
Kevin Durant led the Nets with 32 points and 11 rebounds. Patty Mills scored 21 points and shot 7 of 7 for 3 points. James Harden added 20 points.
The Nets were missing star goaltender Kyrie Irving, who is not with the team due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A New York mandate requires professional athletes on local teams to be vaccinated to train or play in public places. Rather than using Irving exclusively in road games, the Nets decided he wouldn’t play or train with them at all until he could be a full participant.
After receiving their rings and waving a banner to celebrate their first NBA Championship since 1971, the Bucks beat the team that nearly knocked them out in the second round of the playoffs.
Milwaukee made up for a 2-0 deficit and won Game 7 at Brooklyn in overtime after Durant’s foot barely crossed the 3-point arc in the dying seconds of settlement, turning into a potential winner of the series to 3 points in a game tied for 2 basket of points.
The Bucks drove a 21-4 run in the first quarter to extend a 10-8 advantage to 31-12. They regained the lead at 19 in the second quarter and were leading 66-59 at halftime. The lead never fell below seven the rest of the way.
Milwaukee got 15 points from Jordan Nwora, a 2020 second-round pick who was not on the Bucks’ rotation as a rookie but could be ready for a bigger role this year. Grayson Allen added 10 points in his Bucks debut.