Nuggets open title defense with commanding 114-103 win over Lakers-ZoomTech News

Nikola Jokic had 32 factors and 12 rebounds, and the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets powered previous LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 of their Western Convention playoff opener Saturday evening.

Two different Nuggets gamers posted double-double — Jamal Murray (22 factors, 10 assists) and Anthony Gordon (12 factors, 11 rebounds) — and Michael Porter Jr. got here shut with 19 factors and eight boards.

James had 27 factors for L.A. and Anthony Davis had 32 factors and 14 rebounds, however the Lakers misplaced to the Nuggets for the ninth consecutive time and Denver handed James simply his fourth loss in 17 first-round openers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored all 12 of his factors after halftime, made a trio of 3-pointers in a 13-0 run the Nuggets used to grab management within the third quarter.

Porter excelled on the court docket, as coach Michael Malone predicted he would, after a making an attempt week for his household that noticed one youthful brother, Coban Porter, sentenced to six years in jail for a deadly drunken driving crash on Friday and one other, former Toronto Raptors guard Jontay Porter, banned from the NBA for betting on basketball and disclosing confidential info to different bettors.

“There’s a lot occurring off the court docket for Michal Porter Jr. and his household,” Malone mentioned. “This enables him to get again to doing one thing not solely that he loves but in addition that he does very, very nicely.”

The Nuggets entered these playoffs with bull’s-eyes on their backs however supremely assured of their probabilities to repeat after tying a franchise report with 57 common season wins, 4 greater than final yr.

One signal of their looseness: Jokic, who’s starring in a teaser for “Despicable Me 4” the place he seeks remedy as a result of the Minions assume he is their boss, arrived at Ball Enviornment decked out in a black-and-gray striped scarf and grey pants, wanting like Felonius Gru — the lead character from the film franchise.

James ought to have proven up dressed like Vector as a result of he performed the right villain for the sold-out crowd that drowned out the Lakers’ pregame introductions.

James ended a terrific first half during which he scored 19 factors with a 32-foot 3-pointer to interrupt a 57-all tie after the Lakers had blown a 12-point lead.

Denver’s 13-0 run within the third quarter threatened to make it a laugher because the Nuggets stretched their result in 15 within the fourth quarter. However James made two free throws, Davis had a three-point play and Taurean Prince a basket to chop the Lakers’ deficit to 96-88 with 7:17 remaining.

The closest they obtained to the Nuggets, although, was at 103-96 earlier than Porter hit a 3 and Jokic had a dunk off a turnover by James to push Denver’s result in 12.

The Nuggets are in search of to grow to be the primary crew to efficiently defend its NBA title because the Golden State Warriors did it six years in the past.

Denver swept the Lakers in final season’s Western Convention finals, the next-to-last step the Nuggets needed to clear earlier than claiming their first NBA title.

The Lakers have not crushed the Nuggets since Dec. 16, 2022. They’re going to attempt once more Monday evening in Sport 2 at Ball Enviornment, the place Denver is now 34-8 this season.

James misplaced for simply the 18th time in 80 first-round video games. He misplaced a playoff opener for third time in his six seasons with the Lakers, and fourth total. His crew additionally misplaced sequence openers in Spherical 1 in 2018 (Indiana over Cleveland), 2020 (Portland over the Lakers) and 2021 (Phoenix over the Lakers).

Reporting by The Related Press.

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