CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists, and the Milwaukee Bucks spoiled the Charlotte Hornets’ celebration of 30 years of basketball with a 113-112 victory in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night.
Antetokounmpo made two free throws with 23.7 seconds remaining to put the Bucks ahead after the Hornets battled back from a 20-point deficit behind 41 points from Kemba Walker.
Walker missed a driving layup with 3.4 seconds left and the loose ball got kicked outside where Nic Batum misfired on a 3-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer.
Khris Middleton had 19 points and Eric Bledsoe added 17 as the Bucks set out on the quest to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Brook Lopez 14 points in his debut for the Bucks after signing a one-year contract in the offseason.
Walker, a two-time All-Star, was terrific in the loss, hitting 15 of 29 shots including seven 3-pointers — three of those in the fourth quarter — to rally the Hornets. Malik Monk had 18 points and Tony Parker had eight points and seven assists in his first game with the Hornets after 17 seasons with the Spurs.
New Bucks coach Budenholzer stressed spacing and perimeter shooting to open up more 1-on-1 opportunities for the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo to drive the lane. It certainly opened up some 3-point chances as the Bucks used that spacing to knock down 11 of 22 3-point attempts in the first half to build a 67-54 halftime lead.
The Hornets trailed by as many as 18 in the second half, but battled back to tie the game at 101-101 with 6:22 after coach James Borrego went small ball with a lineup of Walker, Parker, Monk, Batum and former small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at center.
Bucks: Started the game on fire, hitting their first five shots to take a 14-5 lead.
Hornets: Charlotte wore its throwback white jerseys with pinstripes and they celebrated its inaugural team back in 1988-89. Several members of the original team were introduced before the game, including Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Rex Chapman and Kelly Tripucka. ... Walker set a franchise record for the most points in a season opener.