Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is defended by Brooklyn’s James Johnson during the Bucks’ 127-104 win in the season opener Tuesday in Milwaukee. Morry Gash/Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points and the Milwaukee Bucks opened the defense of their first title in half a century by beating the Brooklyn Nets 127-104 on Tuesday night.

In his first game since scoring 50 points in a title-clinching Game 6 NBA finals victory over the Phoenix Suns, Antetokounmpo also had 14 rebounds and seven assists.

Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton each added 20 points to help the Bucks withstand the loss of Jrue Holiday, who sat out the second half with a bruised right heel after scoring 12 points.

Kevin Durant led the Nets with 32 points and 11 rebounds. Patty Mills scored 21 points and shot 7 of 7 from 3-point range. James Harden added 20 points.

The Nets were missing star guard Kyrie Irving, who isn’t with the team due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

A New York mandate requires professional athletes on local teams to be vaccinated to practice or play in public venues. Rather than using Irving exclusively in road games, the Nets decided he wouldn’t play or practice with them at all until he could be a full participant.

After receiving their rings and raising a banner to celebrate their first NBA championship since 1971, the Bucks defeated the team that nearly eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs.

Milwaukee rallied from a 2-0 deficit and won Game 7 at Brooklyn in overtime after Durant’s foot barely crept across the 3-point arc in the final seconds of regulation, turning a potential series-winning 3-pointer into a game-tying 2-point basket.

The Bucks went on a 21-4 run in the first quarter to extend a 10-8 advantage to 31-12. They got the lead back up to 19 again in the second quarter and were ahead 66-59 at halftime. The lead never dropped below seven the rest of the way.

Milwaukee got 15 points from Jordan Nwora, a 2020 second-round pick who wasn’t in the Bucks’ rotation as a rookie but could be ready for a bigger role this year.

Grayson Allen added 10 points in his Bucks debut.


76ERS: Philadelphia suspended Ben Simmons for one game due to what they called conduct detrimental to the team. Simmons will miss the 76ers’ season opener Wednesday night at New Orleans.

“I just thought he was a distraction today,” Coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday after practice. “I didn’t think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing. It was early. It wasn’t a big deal. I just told him he should leave. We went on with practice.”

The three-time All-Star guard was a holdout in training camp in the wake of his offseason trade demand. He reported last week and practiced Sunday and Monday with the Sixers. Simmons lingered outside the huddle, dribbled a basketball and looked uninterested during a team huddle at Monday’s practice, where he did not practice with the first team.

Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid said Tuesday he wasn’t here to “babysit” Simmons.

“At this point, I don’t care about that man,” Embiid said. “He does whatever he wants.”

The 25-year-old from Australia had four years and $147 million left on his max contract when he decided he wanted a trade.

“Every day, every single moment, I’m going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team,” Rivers said. “He’s under contract to be part of the team and that’s not going to change. Sometimes it happens quick and guys join back in. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve been in both situations and I’m fine with that.”

Simmons did not make his scheduled media availability Tuesday. Rivers said Simmons would be welcome to return to practice. The Sixers play their home opener Friday.

NUGGETS: Jamal Murray is conflicted.

The Nuggets’ star guard can’t wait to get back to playing basketball like he did before that awful night in San Francisco last April when his left knee buckled as he drove past Andrew Wiggins, ending his season and ultimately quashing Denver’s championship aspirations.

Yet, Murray insists he’s in no hurry to rush back into action from his torn ACL lest he risk a setback and extend his hiatus from competition that weighs so heavily on him.

He’s given fans some tantalizing tidbits of what the future may hold during his slow rehabilitation from his torn ACL.

He drained 3-pointers during warmups before playoff games, then cheered, coached and cajoled teammates from the bench and sometimes even bolted past coach Michael Malone to give officials an earful.

The Nuggets recently tweeted a video of Murray draining a corner 3, then slow-motion prancing down the baseline with a big smile and stepping deliberately so as not to stress his sleeved left knee.

“Just five months ago, I couldn’t lift my leg off the bed,” said Murray. “So, I’ve come a long way. But even when I do certain things, I’ve got to remind myself that I can’t do it to the speed or the level that I want to do it.

“That’s the biggest thing for me coming back, is having confidence in it. You’ll see a lot of videos of me playing 1-on-1, me scoring at a high clip, but that doesn’t mean it feels the way I want it to feel,” Murray said. “That’s just going to come with time. And I can’t rush time.”

WIZARDS: Washington signed center Daniel Gafford to a $40.2 million, three-year contract extension.

The deal runs through the 2025-26 season.

Washington acquired Gafford in a trade in March. He played 23 regular-season games for the Wizards, averaging 10.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks and shooting 68% from the field.

In five playoff games, he averaged 11.8 points and shot 22 of 26 from the field.

PISTONS: Guard Cade Cunningham has been ruled out of the team’s season-opening game against the Chicago Bulls due to a sprained right ankle.

Detroit will host the Bulls on Wednesday night without Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Cunningham hurt his ankle early in training camp and did not play in the preseason.

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