Nikola Jokics scored 37 points and had nine rebounds, six assists and three steals as the Denver Nuggets pulled out a 121 – 112 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in a thrilling Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, taking an early series lead on Monday night.
The Blazers, who entered the second round after knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder last week failed to deliver enough defense against the second-seeded Nuggets. The hosts had finished their first-round matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Nuggets opened up a 10-point lead in the first five minutes of the quarter. Jamal Murray made 23 points, while Paul Millsap finished with 19 points (7-of-12 from the field), maintaining the lead for the rest of the game.
Jokics, who averaged a near triple-double in the first round with 23.1 points, made all 12 of his free throws. He has become the first Nuggets player to record 35+ points in a conference semifinal game since Carmelo Anthony (41 PTS, on May 11, 2009).
Damian Lillard netted a game high 39 points and Enes Kanter scored 26 for the Blazers but the efforts were not good enough to turn the game around at Pepsi Center.
The Blazers’ last won in Denver on October. 29, 2016, a 115-113 overtime victory.
The Game 2 will be played on Wednesday.