Los Angeles - Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points to propel the Bucks to a 117-111 victory in Houston Thursday, spoiling the debut of newly formed Rockets star duo James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
In a battle featuring the last three NBA Most Valuable Players it was reigning MVP Antetokounmpo who emerged the winner, notching the first triple-double of the season before he fouled out with just over five minutes remaining.
By then, the Greek superstar had achieved triple digits in three key statistical categories: 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. His 20 second-half points helped the Bucks rally from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.
Antetokounmpo became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 to post a 30-plus point triple-double in his opening game of a season.
But he said team effort was the key to the comeback win.
"We stayed together," Antetokounmpo said. "Even though we faced adversity and we weren't playing our best basketball in the first quarter and second quarter we came out, we were focused. We were able to move the ball and execute.
"My team without me did a great job," added Antetokounmpo, whose departure with his sixth foul at 5:18 remaining -- and the Bucks up by six -- appeared to open the door to the Rockets.
Houston scored the next five points, Russell Westbrook adding four with a three-pointer and a free throw to trim the deficit to 101-100.
But the Rockets, who brought in 2017 MVP Westbrook in the offseason to play alongside their 2018 MVP James Harden, couldn't get ahead.
Houston had dominated early, taking a quick 12-2 lead and going into halftime with a 66-50 advantage.
Westbrook finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Harden's 19 points owed more to his perfect 14-of-14 finish at the free-throw line than his two-of 13 shooting. He added seven rebounds and 14 assists.
While the Bucks looked a team perfectly capable of repeating their 60-win campaign of last season, the long-dominant Golden State Warriors got a taste of what could be a tough road ahead as they fell 141-122 to the ascendant Los Angeles Clippers.
In the first game in their glitzy new $1.4 billion Chase Arena in San Francisco the Warriors -- now without departed free agent Kevin Durant and injured Klay Thompson -- were no match for a Clippers team bolstered this off-season by the arrival of Kawhi Leonard -- who was on the Toronto Raptors team that beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals in June.
Leonard followed up his 30-point performance in a season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers with 21 points, but it was Lou Williams who led the Clippers in scoring with 22 off the bench.
"We're not surprised," Williams, 32, said of the new-look Clippers' strong start. "We've just got to keep building.
Los Angeles made 62.5 percent of their shots, including 54.5 from three-point range.
The Warriors, in contrast connected on just 39.4 percent from the floor with Stephen Curry finishing with a team-high 23 points.
Carter launches 22nd season
Atlanta's Trae Young opened his second NBA season with a 38-point outburst for the Hawks in a 117-100 victory over the Pistons in Detroit.
Young said he was "a lot more comfortable" than he was coming into his rookie season a year ago and it showed as he connected on 11 of 21 shots from the field, including six of 10 from three-point range.
That included a bomb from near half-court in the second quarter.
While Young was getting his second season off to a rousing start, teammate Vince Carter became the first player to compete in 22 NBA seasons when he came off the bench late in the first quarter.
"We've got a bunch of guys who weren't even born when he started," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce noted of Carter, the 1999 Rookie of the Year.