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Bucks dominate Hornets in first Paris NBA game

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Paris (AFP)

The Milwaukee Bucks pulled away to beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 in the first ever regular NBA game in Paris Friday as Giannis Antetokounmpo delighted the soldout crowd in the French capital with 30 points and 16 rebounds.

The game had a party feel with Paris Saint-Germain football stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe courtside and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was greeted with thunderous applause when he was presented to the crowd at the AccorHotels Arena.

Michael Jordan, the NBA's greatest ever player who is now the Hornets' chairman, has done more than anyone to spread the sport's popularity around the globe and he told reporters before the game: "I'm glad that I was a part of it but I think it will continually get bigger because of the passion for the game of basketball."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before the game that the NBA would return to Paris for "many more years to come".

The Bucks trailed the Hornets for much of the game but began to turn the screw at the end of the third quarter as George Hill slashed to the basket for an easy layup and reigning league MVP Antetokounmpo imposed himself around the rim on the way to his impressive double-double.

Malik Monk top-scored for the Hornets with 31 points but the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks just had too many weapons and Antetokounmpo's powerful dunk with five minutes remaining felt like the sign that the game was effectively over as a contest.

After a quiet first quarter the Greek had shown his teeth in the second when he wrestled the ball from Cody Zeller and reverse-slammed over the hapless Charlotte man to show why he will again captain the Eastern Conference side in the 2020 All-Star Game.

Experienced Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe supplied the ammunition for Antetokounmpo and finished with 20 points himself.

Nicolas Batum, the captain of the France national team whose presence in the Charlotte lineup helped ensure their role in his history-making game, had a quiet game with just five points but his every move was cheered loudly by his compatriots.

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