MILWAUKEE — — Brook Lopez scored 25 points and the Milwaukee Bucks extended their season-opening winning streak to a franchise-record nine games with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-94 on Saturday evening.
Antetokounmpo was absent for the first time this season. He was listed as “doubtful” with left knee pain after recording his first triple-double of the season a night earlier in Minnesota. He did not perform a warm-up before the game, and head coach Mike Budenholzer said before that game that the league’s second-leading scorer with 32.6 points per game would have the night off.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Lopez said of playing without the MVP double. “Giannis has the chance to rest, to fill his cup and we have the chance to improve and see what it’s like without him on the pitch and improve that way.
With Antetokounmpo out, Lopez led Milwaukee on 10 of 16 shots that included four of the Bucks’ 17 3-point shots — including three in the first quarter.
“He had so many good games for us, but to shoot the 3-ball out of the gate so well and then really be such a force in the paint, he really delivered in a lot of different ways,” Budenholzer said. “He was phenomenal.”
He also had a lot of help.
Jevon Carter and Grayson Allen each added five 3s and finished with 18 points and 19 points, respectively. Bobby Portis notched the fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 21 rebounds. Jrue Holiday also finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points and 13 assists.
“I think we all knew we all had to contribute,” Lopez said. “You look across the board…everyone who (played) made an impact.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 7 of 16 shots and led Oklahoma City with 18 points. Josh Giddey scored 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 12.
“We were playing well offensively and defensively, but they started to attack more defensively than us,” Robinson-Earl said.
After finishing the first quarter tied at 34, the Thunder trailed to 24 before hitting four 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the third. Oklahoma City opened the fourth on a 7-2 run that cut Milwaukee’s lead to 95-85 with 10:22 remaining.
The Bucks responded with an 11-2 run over the next three minutes to put the game away.
“We really struggled to start in the second quarter and halftime, but I appreciate how hard our guys fought in the second half,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We just hung on and stayed there. ”
Along with being the first team in franchise history to start the season with nine straight wins, the Bucks are also the first NBA team to win their first nine games since 2015, when Golden State went 24- 0 to start the season – a streak that ended in Milwaukee.
“It’s obviously fun,” Lopez said. “I think what’s pretty cool for us is that we feel like we could still be so much better. We were talking after the game about how much better we could be, especially offensively.”
Thunder: The loss was Oklahoma City’s third in four road games this season. … Gilgeous-Alexander entered the match with an average of 32.3 points, good for third place in the league and just 0.3 points behind Antetokounmpo.
Bucks: While Antetokounmpo was out for the first time this season, first-round pick MarJon Beauchamp got his first career start Saturday night.
Thunder: At the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
Bucks: At the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
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