Nikola Jokic had 37 points and nine rebounds, Jamal Murray added 23 points and eight assists, and the host Denver Nuggets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 121-113 in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Monday night.
Paul Millsap scored 19 points for Denver.
Damian Lillard had 39 points, Enes Kanter scored 26 and Rodney Hood added 17 off the bench for Portland. The Trail Blazers were playing for the first time since eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 23.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Wednesday in Denver.
The Nuggets led most of the way and by as many as 13 in the second half.
Malik Beasley hit two 3-pointers and Millsap sank a jumper to give Denver a 101-89 lead with 10:19 to go. Seth Curry answered with a 3-pointer and Lillard hit a jumper and a layup to get the Blazers within five with 8:57 left.
The Nuggets came right back. After a dunk by Denver’s Mason Plumlee, Portland’s CJ McCollum (16 points) was called for a flagrant-1 foul on Jokic, who hit both free throws. Plumlee subsequently followed a Beasley miss with a dunk, and Beasley followed his own miss with a layup for a 109-96 lead with 6:11 left.
Portland never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
Denver led by three at halftime and increased it to 11 in the first few minutes of the third quarter. Jokic hit a 3-pointer, Murray made a 3-foot floater and Torrey Craig sank another 3-pointer after Jokic’s offensive rebound and pass to the perimeter.
After each team made two free throws, Murray drained another 3-pointer to give the Nuggets a 78-67 lead.
The Trail Blazers cut it to six on Meyers Leonard’s 3-pointer, but Denver took a 93-84 lead into the fourth quarter.
The game was close throughout the first half, with neither team leading by more than six points. Lillard led Portland with 15 and Kanter had 15 in the half.
Millsap scored 17 points and Jokic hit 6 of 8 shots and scored 14 in the first half.
Kanter played with an injured left shoulder but finished 11-for-14 from the field.
—Field Level Media