Budenholzer aiming to keep stars 'fresh' as Giannis logs just 35 minutes
However, the Bucks still lost, 115-107. Their star trio ultimately logged just 20 minutes together, as a Nets squad that lost former MVP James Harden just 43 seconds into the first quarter leaned heavily on the remaining twosome of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer says his strategy is to keep his stars fresh by tapping into the Bucks' depth.
"I think our guys left it all out on the court," the two-time Coach of the Year explained postgame, according to The Athletic's Eric Nehm. "They all want to play 48 minutes. So we just gotta keep them competing, keep them where they can execute.
"Giannis never wants to come out, Khris, Jrue. But we got a deep team and we gotta take advantage of it. Keep them ready. Keep them fresh, but they want to be out there."
While Nets stars Irving and Durant rarely came off the floor - logging 45 and 40 minutes, respectively - each of the Bucks' three franchise pillars received ample time on the bench. Holiday led the bunch with 37 minutes, Middleton played 36, and Antetokounmpo played just 35 minutes - roughly 73% of total game time.
Bucks fans have grown accustomed to seeing their superstar receive only a moderate workload in the postseason. Prior to Saturday's contest, Antetokounmpo had averaged 33.4 minutes in 28 playoff appearances with Budenholzer on the sideline. That figure is only slightly up from 32.1 minutes per game during the regular season since 2018-19.
Game 2 tips off Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET.