Brook Lopez sensed bonds between Milwaukee Bucks players strengthening after their decision to boycott a playoff game sent ripples across the NBA and other major pro sports leagues, which joined in suspending play to protest against racial injustice.
And when it was time to return to the court, they were in sync.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points and 17 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Orlando Magic 118-104 on Saturday to close out the Eastern Conference series in five games.
“You could just feel the closeness,” said Lopez, who had 16 points. “We’re still out there on the floor taking care of our mission and what we want to achieve, but I think being through all this brought us together even more.”
The Bucks advanced to face Miami in the second round, beginning Monday. But they showed little interest in congratulating themselves or talking about basketball after the first NBA game played since they declined to take the court on Wednesday night, when Game 5 was originally scheduled.
Rockets dominate Thunder
James Harden scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook returned to face his former team in the playoffs for the first time, helping the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-80 on Saturday night for a 3-2 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Robert Covington added 22 points and Eric Gordon had 20. The Rockets can advance to the conference semifinals with a victory Monday.
Westbrook, who had played played just one game since Aug. 4 because of a quadriceps injury — missing the Rockets’ first four playoff games — had seven points, six rebounds and seven assists in 23 minutes.
Dennis Schroder led the Thunder with 19 points despite being ejected midway through the third quarter for hitting P.J. Tucker in the groin; Tucker also was ejected after retaliating with a head-butt.