NBA playoffs

Nuggets continue mastery over Lakers to take Game 1


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Nuggets continue mastery over Lakers to take Game 1

FIERCE. Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (right) reacts alongside teammates Nikola Jokic (left) and Michael Porter Jr. in the playoff opener against the Lakers.

Andrew Wevers/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets show who’s boss early, trampling on the Lakers in the first-round opener of their West playoff showdown

Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and the host Denver Nuggets opened defense of their NBA title with a 114-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of their first round series on Saturday night, April 20 (Sunday, April 21, Manila time).

Jamal Murray finished with 22 points and 10 assists to help Denver to its ninth straight win over Los Angeles and fifth in a row in the postseason. Michael Porter Jr. added 19 points and Aaron Gordon had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets.

“Nikola, we see it all the time, he’s a great player. And the bigger the stage and brighter the lights, he just continues to shine,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said following the win. 

“And the same could be said for Jamal Murray. I ran him 39 minutes tonight. It was more than I would have liked to have played him, but he’s another gamer.”

Game 2 is Monday night in Denver.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots, and LeBron James finished with 27 points after a quiet fourth quarter. 

“One game, they protected their home court. We have another opportunity on Monday to come back and be better,” James said. “We know how challenging it’s going to be. We know how difficult this opponent is and how great they are.”

James didn’t attempt a shot in the final period until there was 1:20 left and had only 4 points in the final 12 minutes.

The Nuggets took control with a strong third quarter. Porter’s three-pointer midway through the period gave Denver a 72-71 lead, its first since the first two minutes of the game, and the Nuggets kept rolling.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored all 12 of his points in the period, including a trio of three-pointers during a 13-0 run that gave Denver an 89-78 lead heading into the fourth.

With Jokic on the bench, Murray hit a driving layup and a corner triple over Davis to extend the lead to 96-81 with 9:09 left. 

The Lakers answered with an 11-2 run to cut it to 98-92 midway through the fourth, and D’Angelo Russell missed a three-pointer that would have cut it to four.

Denver made them pay when Porter hit from deep and Jokic had a steal and dunk to make it 108-96 with 3:41 left.

Russell and Austin Reaves finished with 13 points each, and Taurean Prince added 11 points for Los Angeles.

James set the tone for the Lakers with 12 points in the first quarter, and they led by as many as 12 in the second quarter. 

The Nuggets tied it with a 14-2 run but James hit a 32-foot jumper with 0.8 seconds left to give the Lakers a 60-57 halftime lead. –

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