Kevin Durant scored 29 points as the Brooklyn Nets survived a hamstring injury to James Harden in the opening minute of the first quarter and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 115-107 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday in New York.
Game 2 is Monday in Brooklyn, and it could be played without Harden, who injured his right hamstring and did not return.
Kyrie Irving added 25 points and eight assists as the Nets shot 46.9 per cent and had enough other scoring to compensate for Harden’s absence.
Joe Harris chipped in 19 and five of Brooklyn’s 15 3-pointers. Blake Griffin contributed 18 and 14 rebounds and matched a playoff career high with four three-pointers. Mike James added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 34 points. He shot 16 of 24 from the field and helped Milwaukee score 72 points in the paint.
Former Net Brook Lopez added 19 points and Jrue Holiday contributed 17. Khris Middleton was held to 13 points on 6 of 23 from the floor and 0 of 5 from three-point range.
Milwaukee’s potent offense in the paint was negated by an awful three-point shooting display. The Bucks finished 6 of 30 (20 per cent) from behind the arc and shot 44.6 per cent overall.
Without Harden, the Nets still gradually took control, taking the lead for good a little over three minutes into the second quarter before building a 14-point lead through three quarters.
Durant shot 12 of 25, and two of his biggest baskets occurred after Antetokounmpo’s 18-footer and three-pointer made it 103-93 with 7:01 remaining. He converted a seven-footer in the lane and following a missed layup by Middleton, Durant threw down a dunk off a no-look feed from Irving to make it 107-93 with 6:24 left.
Brooklyn clinched the win when Irving hit Harris with a bounce pass from underneath the rim for a corner three-pointer that made it 115-96, with 3:41 remaining.
Antetokounmpo scored 10 points as the Bucks took a 32-30 lead after the opening quarter. The Nets used a 20-8 spurt to open a 59-48 lead on a layup by Irving, with 3:22 remaining, and Milwaukee ended the half with a 13-4 run to get within 63-61 by halftime.
Irving’s layup around Middleton gave the Nets their second double-digit lead at 83-73 with 4:21 remaining in the third, and Brooklyn ended the quarter with a 12-4 run to take a 98-84 edge into the fourth.