The Milwaukee Bucks tipped off their 2019-20 regular season in impressive fashion in Houston, outscoring the Rockets 39-24 in the fourth quarter to stun the home crowd.
The Bucks trailed by as many as 16 points on the night, before their balanced offence came up clutch to secure the 117-111 win.
Giannis is the MVP favourite for a reason
The reigning MVP staked his early claim to repeat, with a destructive 28 minutes of basketball that combined brute force and majestic touch. The Greek Freak poured in 30 points, reeled in 13 boards and dished out 11 assists in the complete performance.
Antetokounmpo would foul out of the game with 5:18 remaining, but not before putting on a clinic for the Houston crowd.
Coming into the season, Antetokounmpo's outside game remained a talking point. After air-balling his first attempt from range, he found the touch, knocking down two of his next four attempts from beyond the arc.
Antetokounmpo connected on 36 per cent of his three-point shots in the preseason, and if tonight's display is anything to go by, there may officially be another string to his bow.
If that holds true, good luck NBA.
Bucks' unconventional defensive scheme to counter Harden
Much has been made about the Bucks unique counter to James Harden's historical scoring output, with the Milwaukee defenders taking an exaggerated defensive position to the back left of the Houston star when he has the ball.
The tactic largely negates the former MVP's ability to penetrate the paint going left, and also attempts to stifle one of his most dangerous weapons - the stepback jumper.
The scheme requires extreme discipline to work, with Harden arguably the best in the league at drawing fouls. When Eric Bledsoe picked up three early fouls, the plan could have easily been thrown out the window, but with George Hill and Wes Matthews slotting into the guard spot, the Bucks forged ahead.
Appearing frustrated at times and out of control driving to the paint, Harden was called for multiple offensive foul calls during the rough shooting night.
Harden would tally 19 points and 14 assists, but was just 2-for-13 from the field.
In three games against Milwaukee since Mike Budenholzer took over as head coach of the Bucks and implemented the scheme, Harden is 24-for-69 from the field (24 per cent).
While Harden was able to create great shot opportunities for his teammates at times, his scoring output was nullified and that proved the be costly for the Rockets.
If you can force someone other than James Harden to have to score, you are well on your way to victory, which leads me to my next takeaway....
Rockets' late-game shot selection
The biggest question coming into the season for the Houston Rockets was how James Harden and Russell Westbrook would operate as a tandem.
The duo join Antetokounmpo in being the last three MVP winners, so the talent is undeniable, but the chemistry and ability to co-exist within the same offence remains up in the air.
The early season test came late in the fourth quarter, with the Bucks gaining the lead and the Rockets desperately needing a basket.
On two straight possessions, Westbrook let it fly from three, missing both.
Westbrook is coming off a season in which he shot just 29 per cent from beyond the arc on 5.6 attempts per game. Despite Harden struggling with his shot, he is the man whose hands you want to keep the ball out of and the Bucks did just that.
Westbrook finished the game with 24 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.