The Brooklyn Nets strike first.
In an entertaining start to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Nets secured a 115-107 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who combined for 54 points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points and 11 rebounds, while Brook Lopez added 19 points and five rebounds, but their struggles from the 3-point line proved costly as they begin the series down 1-0.
Let's jump into the key takeaways at the buzzer.
Irving and Durant power the Nets offence
The Nets' duo was on fire in Game 1, with Irving recording 25 points, eight assists, and five rebounds on 11-of-26 from the field, while Durant added 29 points, and 10 rebounds on 12-of-25 shooting.
Irving started things off scoring 20 of his 25 points in the first half, while Durant picked it up after half-time, scoring 17 of his 29 in the second half.
Kyrie ➡️ KD to hype up the Barclays Center crowd on TNT! #NBAPlayoffs #ThatsGame pic.twitter.com/iLF5PKPKgk- NBA (@NBA) June 6, 2021
Despite the pair only connecting on 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from three, Irving and Durant imposed their will on the game, torching the Bucks in isolation and from mid-range.
They blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Bucks 35-23 to open up a 14 point lead, with Durant scoring 13 points in the period on 5-of-8 shooting.
In a huge blow for the Nets, James Harden was ruled out of Game 1 just 43 seconds into the contest.
James Harden (right hamstring) is out for the remainder of tonight's game.- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 6, 2021
Harden appeared to injure his hamstring on the first drive of the game in the opening quarter, heading straight back to the locker room, before being ruled out for the remainder of the game.
According to the TNT broadcast, he soon left the arena to undergo an MRI.
James Harden is heading to the locker room with an apparent hamstring injury pic.twitter.com/r8hmUGHF05- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 5, 2021
Playoff Blake Griffin
Starting at center in the Nets' small-ball lineup, this is exactly the type of playoff game the Nets brought Blake Griffin in for.
Griffin recorded 19 points and a season-high 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, with his ability to space the floor opening up the Nets offence as he knocked down 4-of-9 from the 3-point line - almost as many threes as the Bucks team as a whole.
Blake throws it down 💪 pic.twitter.com/Q3d503ZOA3- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 6, 2021
With Harden exiting the game early, Griffin seamlessly stepped into being the Nets' third option on offence, but his energy and effort stood out as he hustled for rebounds and used his size in the paint to thwart the Bucks on defence.
"Blake was great, obviously he put up numbers, but his energy and fight was outstanding," Nets head coach Steve Nash said post-game. "It's beautiful to see him work and persevere and get an opportunity to play extended minutes tonight and he was outstanding."
It wasn't just Griffin stepping up as Joe Harris buried five 3-pointers for his 19 points, while Mike James added 12 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench.
With James Harden going down early in Game 1, the non-Big 3 for the Nets stepped up.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2021
They scored 61 points tonight after averaging 38.2 points in the 1st round.
They also made 11 3-pointers after averaging just 5 per game in the 1st round. pic.twitter.com/iPbPsnldur
Bucks go cold from deep
The Bucks couldn't buy a bucket from the 3-point line in Game 1, connecting on just 6-of-30 - their lowest 3-point total of the season.
During the regular season, the Bucks were the fifth in the league in 3-point makes per game (14.4), but their usual marksmen were off the pace tonight, with Middleton (0-of-5), Holiday (2-of-7), Bryn Forbes (0-of-5) all going cold.
In a game they lost by just eight points, their 3-point shooting proved costly.
PJ Tucker starts on KD
Tucker, who came off the bench for the first-round series against the Miami Heat and started just one game in the regular season, was inserted into the starting lineup of Game 1, taking the assignment of guarding Kevin Durant.
Coach Mike Budenholzer's adjustment was solid in the first half as Tucker held Durant to 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, coming up with some big plays on the defensive end, including this steal on Durant which led to an eye-catching alley-oop to Antetokounmpo.
OH. MY. GIANNIS!!!! pic.twitter.com/fKQb74T0Nq- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 5, 2021
The teams will face off again in Brooklyn, with Game 2 scheduled for Monday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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