Jokic leads Nuggets past Lakers on opening day of the playoffs

Defending champion Denver Nuggets, powered by 32 points from Nikola Jokic, shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in game one of their first-round series of the NBA playoffs on Sunday.

The Nuggets, who won in four games against the Lakers in the Western Conference finals en route to their first title last season, continued their dominance in star-studded Los Angeles, winning all three meetings had dropped in the regular season.

The game was the finale of the first day of the playoffs, in which the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Phoenix Suns 120-95, the New York Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Orlando Magic 97- 83 defeated.

In Denver, Jokic added 12 rebounds and seven assists, Jamal Murray added 22 points with 10 assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 points for the Nuggets, who used a 13-0 run to take the lead in the third quarter – limiting the Lakers to 18 points.

James scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 27 for the Lakers, who cut a 15-point deficit to six early in the fourth quarter before allowing the Nuggets to pull away.

“The mentality had to change,” Jokic said of the Nuggets’ third-quarter resurgence. “I think the defense was great in the second half.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the Nuggets’ 15-6 superiority in offensive rebounding was crucial as Denver collected 18 second-chance points.

“You can’t allow them to get multiple possessions,” said Ham, who added he still believed the best-of-seven series, which resumes on Monday, will be a “hard-fought” affair.

In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in their Western Conference matchup.

Against a team that also had their number in the regular season, Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert of Minnesota – backed by a strong supporting cast – turned the tables.

“I think everyone here knows this is my favorite player of all time,” Edwards said of two-time NBA champion Durant. “That was probably one of the best feelings ever in my entire life.” (AFP)