Los Angeles (AFP) - Giannis Antetokounmpo shook off the rust of a long layoff by scoring 36 points to power the Milwaukee Bucks to a 119-112 victory over the Boston Celtics in their first game of the NBA's restarted season.
Milwaukee, who are trying to win their first NBA title since 1971, boasted the best record at 53-12 when the league was shutdown in mid-March due to the global pandemic.
The Bucks trailed by two points at the half, then built a big lead and held on in the fourth quarter to beat the Celtics in the battle between the two Eastern Conference powerhouses.
The 25-year-old Antetokounmpo finished with 13 rebounds and seven assists and five fouls. He almost fouled out with 88 seconds to go but after a video review the officials overturned a sixth foul call, allowing him to stay in the game and lead the Bucks to victory.
Khris Middleton scored 18 points and added eight assists, while Brook Lopez tallied 14 points and made six blocks for the Bucks, who came into the game holding a 6 1/2 game lead over second place Toronto.
Both teams did a good job of acclimating themselves to their new surroundings, which includes playing without fans at the Disney World complex that is acting as the "bubble" venue for the 22 teams taking part in the restart.
The players benches have been moved back from the sidelines and the area was enlarged so the coaches and reserves could sit apart at safe distances and cheer their teammates on at The Arena.
Before the game the players from both teams, wearing shirts reading "Black Lives Matter", linked arms and kneeled together during the playing of the American national anthem, as other teams have done during the restart.
Antetokounmpo remains on track toward becoming the NBA's first back-to-back MVP since Stephen Curry in 2015-16.
Heading into Friday's game he was averaging a robust 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season.