Kevin Durant Credit: Bill Moore photo

The anticipation for the Brooklyn Nets season is high. From the time the 2021-’22 NBA schedule was released in mid-August, both fans and pundits were looking forward to the opening night matchup of the Nets facing the defending league champion Milwaukee Bucks on the road.

They met last season in a competitive and dramatic Eastern Conference semifinal series that ended with the Bucks winning Game 7 at the Barclays Center by 115-111 in overtime to advance to the conference finals, where they defeated the Atlanta Hawks before capturing the title in six games over the Phoenix Suns.

Four months ago, Nets guard Kyrie Irving missed Games 5, 6 and 7 due to a severe ankle injury sustained in Game 4. The seven-time All-Star is still out to start this season because he remains unvaccinated. Current New York City mandates regarding large, indoor venues prevent Irving from playing games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated on Monday that Irving’s situation is not one created, imposed or ultimately resolved by the league. “This is between Irving and New York City right now,” he said.

“This is not a league issue, but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated.”

Brooklyn minus Irving then and now still leaves them with two of the league’s best players in Kevin Durant and James Harden, but they came up short against the Bucks who decisively won by 127-104. Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo picked up where he left off, scoring 32 points to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists.

“We weren’t very good,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “If you’re not playing at a high level against the champs, you’re not going to win.”

The Bucks not only beat Brooklyn, they did it on the night players and coaches were honored by receiving their championship rings. They dropped 37 points in the first quarter without committing a turnover, and except for the second quarter, Milwaukee outscored Brooklyn in every period, totaling 21 more shot attempts.

“We couldn’t get over the hump,” said Durant, who dropped 32 points. They had more offensive possessions than us.”

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