Nikola Jokic has scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead defending NBA champions Denver past LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in their Western Conference playoffs series opener.

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

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

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

Seeking to become the first team to successfully defend the NBA title since Golden State six years ago, the Nuggets entered the playoffs confident after tying a franchise record with 57 regular season wins, four more than last year.

In Saturday’s other Western Conference playoffs series opener, third-seeded Minnesota crushed Phoenix 120-95 in Minneapolis. 

Anthony Edwards had 33 points and nine rebounds while Karl-Anthony Towns added 19 points and Nickeil Alexander-Walker 18 as they led the Timberwolves to their first Game 1 home win in the playoffs in 20 years.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting to lead the sixth-seeded Suns, whose disadvantages in depth and size were exploited. 

Devin Booker had 18 points on 5-for-16 shooting and Bradley Beal added 15 points, but the Suns were outrebounded 52-28 and outscored 52-34 in the paint by the Wolves.

In New York, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart each scored 22 points and Deuce McBride led a huge effort by the bench with 21 as the Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 in their Eastern Conference first-round opener.

Sixers’ superstar Joel Embiid appearing to reinjure his surgically repaired left knee on a dunk in the second quarter but he returned and rallied the 76ers into the lead in the second half.

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

In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell stepped up with 30 points while Jarrett Allen had 18 rebounds for the Cavaliers as they defeated Orlando 97-83 in the other Eastern Conference game 1.

Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points in his playoff debut, but had nine turnovers. The Magic shot just 33 per cent from the field.

Australian veteran Joe Ingles played 15 minutes off the bench for the Magic, adding two assists, four rebounds and a steal but just one point.

© AAP





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