Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks had no answers as Kevin Durant guided the Brooklyn Nets to a brutal 125-186 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Harden sat out due to hamstring tightness, but the star-studded Nets still made light work of the Bucks in Monday's blow-out win for a commanding 2-0 lead in the NBA playoffs.
Durant put on a show against two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo and the visiting Bucks, posting 32 points in three quarters while Kyrie Irving added 22 points.
The second-seeded Nets – who defeated Milwaukee in three consecutive home games for the first time since 2006-09 – led by as much as 49 points in their most lopsided postseason victory in franchise history.
Brooklyn, eyeing a maiden championship, became the first team since the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers to score at least 115 points in each of their last six playoff games.
The Nets – who set a franchise postseason record with 21 three-pointers – became the first team in playoff history to have an MVP winner (Harden) miss the game and yet still win by 35-plus points, according to Stats Perform.
Antetokounmpo had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee, but the Bucks superstar was far from efficient.
The @BrooklynNets are the first team in NBA playoff history to have an MVP winner (James Harden) miss the game and yet still win by 35+ points.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 8, 2021
Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo was eight-for-15 shooting, while he missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and had three turnovers.
Khris Middleton finished with 17 points, however, he was seven-for-20 shooting from the field, having made only three of his eight three-pointers.
In the west, the Phoenix Suns opened their semi-final matchup with a 122-105 win at home to the Denver Nuggets.
Chris Paul (21 points and 11 assists) and Deandre Ayton (20 points and 10 rebounds) fuelled the second-seeded Suns, who saw all of their starters finish with double-digit points – Devin Booker (21), Mikal Bridges (23) and Jae Crowder (14).
The Suns took control in the second half, outscoring the third-ranked Nuggets 65-47 in Game 1.
MVP favourite and Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was limited to just 22 points on 10-for-23 shooting, nine rebounds and three assists on the road.
Clippers at Jazz
The Los Angeles Clippers and top-ranked Utah Jazz will open their Western Conference second-round series on Tuesday. In the east, the Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to bounce back in Game 2 at home to the Atlanta Hawks.