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Nuggets defeated Lakers for the ninth straight time, winning 114-103

DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets cruised past LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in their Western Conference playoff opener on Saturday night.

Two other Nuggets players posted double-doubles – Jamal Murray (22 points, 10 assists) and Anthony Gordon (12 points, 11 rebounds) – and Michael Porter Jr. came close with 19 points and eight boards.

James had 27 points for LA and Anthony Davis had 32 points and 14 rebounds, but the Lakers lost to the Nuggets for the ninth straight time and Denver handed James just his fourth loss in 17 first-round openers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored all 12 points after halftime, made a trio of 3-pointers in a 13-0 run that helped the Nuggets take control in the third quarter.

Porter excelled on the court, as coach Michael Malone predicted, after a difficult week for his family in which one younger brother, Coban Porter, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for a fatal drunk driving crash and another, former Toronto Raptors guard Jontay Porter, banned from the NBA for betting on basketball and releasing confidential information to other gamblers.

TIMBER WOLVES 120, SUNS 95

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and had nine rebounds to lift Minnesota to a tone-setting victory over Phoenix to start the first round of the playoffs.

Karl-Anthony Towns added 19 points, Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Rudy Gobert closed the court with 14 points, 16 rebounds and consistent shot-altering defense to lead the Wolves to their first Game 1 . home win in the play-offs in 20 years.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting to lead the Suns, whose depth and size disadvantages were exploited. Devin Booker had 18 points on 5-for-16 shooting and Bradley Beal added 15 points, but the Suns outrebounded 52-28 and outscored the Wolves 52-34 in the paint.

Game 2 takes place Tuesday in Minneapolis before the best-of-seven series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3.

Edwards led a 19-4 run to end the third quarter, stretching his arms wide to connect with the crowd after some of his biggest shots that stretch. He stared and barked at Durant, who could only grin at the 22-year-old’s bravado.

With 3:37 to go, Edwards highlighted this performance by stealing the ball from Durant – after Gobert poked it loose – and finishing with a slam on the other end.

KNIKS 111, 76ERS 104

NEW YORK (AP) — Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart each scored 22 points and Deuce McBride led a huge effort by New York’s backups with 21 as they defeated Philadelphia in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

McBride himself outscored the 76ers by 13 points in the second quarter, when Joel Embiid had to leave after appearing to re-injure his surgically repaired left knee during a dunk. He returned to give the 76ers the lead in the second half, but Josh Hart hit a pair of big three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks pull out the lead.

Hart also had 13 rebounds for the Knicks, who had lost Game 1 the last three times they opened a series at home. They host Game 2 on Monday.

Embiid finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 33 points.

CAVALIERS 97, MAGIC 83

CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, Jarrett Allen had 18 rebounds and Cleveland defeated Orlando in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series.

Evan Mobley added 16 points for Cleveland, which was bullied and bounced by the New York Knicks in just five games in the 2023 postseason.

That experience has scarred the Cavs, who entered these playoffs more confident, deeper (at least on paper) and relatively healthy after an injury-riddled regular season.

Mitchell has already been slowed for two months due to a left knee contusion, but the All-Star guard moved well and looked much more like himself as Cleveland’s only viable offensive threat for more than two quarters.

Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points in his playoff debut but had nine turnovers. The Magic shot just 33% from the field – some of it attributed to poor shooting, some of it due to Cleveland’s defense.