Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez tries to block Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant in the first half  Monday at New York. Kathy Willens/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Kevin Durant scored 32 points in three quarters of a top-to-bottom blowout that sent the Brooklyn Nets halfway to the Eastern Conference finals with a 125-86 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.

Playing without the injured James Harden but showing no hint that they needed him, the Nets led by as much as 49 and held the NBA’s highest-scoring team 34 points below its season average.

Kyrie Irving added 22 points and Bruce Brown filled in nicely for Harden with 13 points and six rebounds.

The Nets broke down the Bucks’ defense off the dribble all night, setting up uncontested shots that they mostly made. Brooklyn shot 52% from the field and was 21 for 42 from 3-point range.

The Bucks swept their first-round series against Miami but need a big turnaround when they get back home to avoid being swept themselves now.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, but was thoroughly outplayed by Durant in a matchup of NBA MVP winners and sat dejected on the Bucks’ bench early in the fourth quarter with the game long since hopelessly out of reach.

Khris Middleton added 17 points after a slow start to the series and Jrue Holiday had 13.

Game 3 is Thursday in Milwaukee, where the Bucks beat the Nets twice in May while Harden was out with a right hamstring injury.

He left Game 1 after 43 seconds with tightness of that hamstring, but the Nets shook that off to win 115-107. The Nets haven’t given a timetable for his return, though he didn’t appear too hurt going out under the backboard to holler toward Durant after his driving layup made it 95-65 after three.

The onslaught came quickly. A three-point game midway through the first quarter became 36-19 by the end of it after the Nets closed with a 23-9 surge. Durant scored 13 points, playing the entire quarter.

He and Irving sat to start the second but the Nets opened with a 7-2 burst to push the lead to 43-21 on Blake Griffin’s 3-pointer.

Griffin had the highlight play of the half, cutting along the baseline to take a pass from Brown and swoop in for the slam, with Antetokounmpo turning his head away at the last second so the ball couldn’t crash down on top of him.

Who could blame the Bucks for not wanting to look?

The lead ballooned to 27 late in the half before Brooklyn took a 65-41 cushion to the locker room.

NOTES

COACH OF THE YEAR: Tom Thibodeau got the New York Knicks back to the playoffs, guiding the team to its second-best record in 20 years.

And in the eyes of the voters, that coaching job was the best in the NBA.

Thibodeau was revealed as the NBA’s Coach of the Year for 2020-21, as determined by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league. The Knicks went 41-31 this season, then fell to Atlanta in five games in the first round of the playoffs.

It was the closest balloting since this version of voting was introduced 19 years ago. Thibodeau got 43 first-place votes and finished with 351 total points, and Phoenix’s Monty Williams actually got more first-place votes – he got 45 – but finished with 340 points.

It was Thibodeau’s second time winning the award; he also got it in 2011, his first season with the Chicago Bulls. And another first-year turnaround in New York merited him the trophy for a second time.

Utah’s Quin Snyder was third and got 10 of the remaining 12 first-place votes. Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers was fourth, getting the other two first-place votes. Atlanta’s Nate McMillan was fifth, Brooklyn’s Steve Nash was sixth and Denver’s Michael Malone was seventh.

FINES: The Philadelphia 76ers and their president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, have each been fined $75,000 for a tweet Morey sent about Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

Morey and the team were fined for violating the NBA’s anti-tampering rule, the league announced.

On Thursday, Morey tweeted “join ’em” with a screenshot of a social media post by Stephen Curry praising his brother, Seth, who had scored 30 points for the Sixers the night before in a playoff series-ending win over Washington.

Morey replied to the tweet to clarify he only meant “we are all thrilled” Seth Curry is on the Philadelphia roster.

It was not the first time Morey’s Twitter account got him in trouble with the league. In 2019, Morey’s tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong led to backlash in China, where the NBA has a large fan base and financial interests. Morey was the Houston Rockets’ general manager at the time.

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