Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds, and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 on Friday night in the first NBA regular-season game in France.
Milwaukee improved to 40-6 with its eighth straight victory. The Bucks have the best 46-game start in franchise history. They were 39-7 in 1970-71 when they went on to win the NBA championship.
“The focus and the purpose of this team has been very good,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We feel like there’s a lot of work to be done, a lot of things to improve.”
Eric Bledsoe added 20 points and five assists for the Bucks, who looked rusty in the first two quarters.
“I only practiced once before the game. It’s kind of hard to get into a rhythm. We weren’t moving the ball as much,” said Antetokounmpo, who had his fourth triple-double of the season Monday against the Chicago Bulls. “Hopefully, we can learn from the game. Close to the third quarter, the bench came back in and did a great job. In the fourth quarter, we were able to close out the game.”
Malik Monk led Charlotte with 31 points.
“I thought Malik was fantastic, made plays for us. He’s an incredible athlete,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “The challenge now is to do it on a night-to-night basis.”
The Hornets have lost eight in a row — the longest for the Hornets since dropping 10 straight in the 2014-15 season.
There was, naturally, a French feel to the night.
Former San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker was given a huge ovation by the crowd when he was presented to fans before the game. So was Ronny Turiaf, an NBA champion with the Miami Heat in 2012.
Nicolas Batum, who scored five points for the Hornets, raised his hand to the crowd chanting his name at the end.
Paris Saint-Germain soccer stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe — the world’s two most expensive players — were cheering on the Bucks all night.
For Antetokounmpo, who is a big fan of PSG and was a guest at the Parc des Princes stadium this week, it was a strange feeling.
“It’s insane. The crazy part is that we’re really big fans of them and they’re big fans of the team. You never expect them to know who we are and what we do, and be fans of the Bucks,” he said. “But it was amazing they came to the game. They came to the locker room afterwards. We exchanged jerseys, took pictures with them.”