Giannis Posts 32 and 14 as Bucks Top Kevin Durant, Nets to Open 2021-22 Season

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVOctober 20, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 19: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half of the season opener at the Fiserv Forum on October 19, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The champions picked up right where they left off.

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 127-104 in Tuesday's season opener at Fiserv Forum. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the victors, who also beat the Nets in a seven-game classic in last season's playoffs.

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This Giannis wink after the and-one dunk πŸ˜‰ <a href="https://t.co/KYE9l50xbW">pic.twitter.com/KYE9l50xbW</a>

Solid showings from Kevin Durant, James Harden and Patty Mills weren't enough for Brooklyn, which remains without Kyrie Irving because of his vaccination status.

Notable Player Stats

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF, MIL: 32 PTS, 14 REB, 7 AST, 2 BLK
  • Khris Middleton, SF, MIL: 20 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST
  • Pat Connaughton, SG, MIL: 20 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST
  • Kevin Durant, F, BKN: 32 PTS, 11 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK
  • James Harden, G, BKN: 20 PTS, 8 REB, 8 AST, 2 BLK
  • Patty Mills, G, BKN: 21 PTS, 7-of-7 3PT

Giannis Leads Way in Dominant Showing

If there can be a statement regular-season game for a team that just won a championship, Tuesday's contest was it for the Bucks.

After all, it's not difficult to craft an argument that Brooklyn would have beaten Milwaukee in the second round last season if Harden and Irving were healthy for the entire series. The Nets also could have won if Durant's foot had been inches further back and behind the three-point line on a jumper in the final seconds of regulation that forced overtime in Game 7.

Antetokounmpo had no interest in entertaining the notion that the Nets were actually the better team from the start. He was dominant for stretches in the first half while staking Milwaukee to a lead that expanded to as many as 19 points.

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Denied by Giannis πŸ– <a href="https://t.co/wHmpTJn2H6">pic.twitter.com/wHmpTJn2H6</a>

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Giannis pulled out the euro on KD 😨<br><br>That left-hand finish was tough. <a href="https://t.co/Je2lCxqmYJ">pic.twitter.com/Je2lCxqmYJ</a>

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JORDAN NWORA BLOCKS DURANT. <a href="https://t.co/rkg5wtBTMc">pic.twitter.com/rkg5wtBTMc</a>


The EURO or the ENGLISH?<br><br>Giannis is up to 24 and 12 on TNT πŸ’ͺ <a href="https://t.co/FHf86dRGnT">pic.twitter.com/FHf86dRGnT</a>


Giannis up to 29 &amp; 13... Fiserv Forum is ROCKIN'!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KiaTipOff21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KiaTipOff21</a> on TNT <a href="https://t.co/3t2HaQ9nzE">pic.twitter.com/3t2HaQ9nzE</a>

While Brooklyn climbed back within seven by halftime, the two-time MVP controlled the boards, hit from the outside, met Nicolas Claxton at the rim for an emphatic block, got out in transition and was largely unstoppable around the rim.

His performance was all the more important because Jrue Holiday was ruled out for the game with a right heel contusion after his own quick start.

Giannis needed some help without the go-to point guard, and the combination of Pat Connaughton and Jordan Nwora provided a spark off the bench as the home team kept Brooklyn at bay in the third quarter. Khris Middleton also found his touch as a scorer and dazzled with a full-court pass to Antetokounmpo for a dunk.

Yet when the game was on the line early in the fourth quarter, it was back to Antetokounmpo as a one-man wrecking crew who overpowered Brooklyn defenders in the paint, played strong defense on the other end and largely put the game away.

Patty Mills' Impressive Showing Not Enough for Nets

One of the biggest off-court stories in the league heading into the new season is the status of Irving. New York mandates mean he cannot play home games, and Nets general manager Sean Marks announced the seven-time All-Star will not join the team until he can be a full participant.

It also has a massive impact on the court since the Big Three of Irving, Durant and Harden is the primary reason Brooklyn is on the short list of title contenders.

Alas, other playmakers around Harden and Durant will need to provide secondary scoring while Irving remains out. Mills answered the call by drilling all five of his three-point attempts in the first half alone while helping the visitors battle back following a brutal start.

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KD lob to Blake Griffin πŸ”¨ <a href="https://t.co/59M6KxwCMK">pic.twitter.com/59M6KxwCMK</a>

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Harden three on Giannis 😯 <a href="https://t.co/ZSbWPlx0P0">pic.twitter.com/ZSbWPlx0P0</a>


KD rises and connects in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PhantomCam?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PhantomCam</a>.<a href="https://twitter.com/BrooklynNets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BrooklynNets</a> 93<a href="https://twitter.com/Bucks?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Bucks</a> 101<br><br>Early 4Q on TNT <a href="https://t.co/yvngcrnCQZ">pic.twitter.com/yvngcrnCQZ</a>


Patty Mills is 6 FOR 6 from deep in his <a href="https://twitter.com/BrooklynNets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BrooklynNets</a> debut!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KiaTipOff21?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KiaTipOff21</a> on TNT <a href="https://t.co/BxS5WpJyCx">pic.twitter.com/BxS5WpJyCx</a>

The Nets still needed more, though, as Mills was the only player on their bench to make a single field goal through three quarters while they fell behind by double digits once again.

Harden did his part for stretches with his outside shot and lob passes to Claxton, and Durant kept his team within striking distance with his smooth stroke and rebounding. Given the way Mills played, it was something of a Big Three even without Irving on the floor.

Still, Paul Millsap, Jevon Carter and LaMarcus Aldridge were invisible as offensive contributors; Bruce Brown rode the bench in a somewhat surprising move; and Blake Griffin didn't have much left offensively since he was stuck guarding Antetokounmpo so many times on the other end.

That is not a formula for victory against the defending champs.          

What's Next?

Both teams hit the road to face fellow Eastern Conference contenders for their next game. Milwaukee plays the Miami Heat on Thursday, while Brooklyn goes against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.


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