LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points as the Milwaukee Bucks launched the defense of their NBA crown on Tuesday with a season-opening 127-104 demolition of the Brooklyn Nets.
Antetokounmpo picked up where he left off in guiding the Bucks to victory in the NBA Finals last season, leading an emphatic all-round offensive display that included 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player was one of five Bucks who cracked double figures on a night when Milwaukee’s fans celebrated as the team raised its first championship banner in 50 years at the Fiserv Forum.
Khris Middleton had 20 points while Pat Connaughton also made 20 off the bench. Jordan Nwora added 15 points while Jrue Holiday, who left the game with an injury early on, had 12 points.
Antetokounmpo was pleased with the way the Bucks turned their attention to the challenge of the Nets after the pre-game festivities.
“It was hard — we all were excited to get the rings, and seeing our banner,” Antetokounmpo said.
“It’s kind of hard to balance that, to go from that excitement and emotional state to go and play a game.
“But I think we did a great job. We were able to focus on our game plan and ourselves and get a win.
“We’ve got a deep team. Everyone’s ready to step up and ready to play. We play hard and play together. We just try to build good habits and play good basketball and that’s what we did tonight.”
It was a chastening loss for Brooklyn, which started the season without the services of Kyrie Irving.
The team has left Irving out of its line-up for the foreseeable future because of his refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine, which makes him ineligible for home games in New York due to city laws.
In Irving’s absence, Kevin Durant led the Brooklyn scorers with 32 points while James Harden had 20. New signing Patty Mills added 21 — making seven-from-seven from three-point range — while Nic Claxton had 12 points.