LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points to propel the Bucks to a 117-111 victory in Houston Thursday, spoiling the debut of newly formed Rockets star duo James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
In a battle featuring the last three NBA Most Valuable Players it was reigning MVP Antetokounmpo who emerged the winner, notching the first triple-double of the season before he fouled out with just over five minutes remaining.
By then, the Greek superstar had amassed a triple-double of 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, scoring 20 points in the second half to help the Bucks rally from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.
Antetokounmpo became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 to post a 30-plus point triple-double in his opening game of a season.
But he said team effort was the key to the comeback win.
“We stayed together,” Antetokounmpo said. “Even though we faced adversity and we weren’t playing our best basketball in the first quarter and second quarter we came out, we were focused. We were able to move the ball and execute.
“My team without me did a great job,” added Antetokounmpo, whose departure with his sixth foul with 5:18 remaining — and the Bucks up by six — appeared to open the door to the Rockets.
Houston scored the next five points, Russell Westbrook adding four with a three-pointer and a free throw to trim the deficit to 101-100.
But the Rockets, who brought in 2017 MVP Westbrook in the offseason to play alongside their 2018 MVP James Harden, couldn’t get ahead.
Houston had dominated early, taking a quick 12-2 lead and going into halftime with a 66-50 advantage.
Westbrook finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Harden’s 19 points owed more to his perfect 14-of-14 finish at the free-throw line than his two-of 13 shooting. He added seven rebounds and 14 assists.
© Agence France-Presse