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Nuggets beat Lakers for the ninth straight time, win 114-103

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) goes up to shoot against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) goes up to shoot against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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

Two other Nuggets players posted double-double — 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 L.A. 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.

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

Porter excelled on the court, as coach Michael Malone predicted he would, after a trying week for his family that saw one younger brother, Coban Porter, sentenced to six years in jail for a fatal drunken driving crash on Friday and another, former Toronto Raptors guard Jontay Porter, banned from the NBA for betting on basketball and disclosing confidential information to other bettors.

TIMBERWOLVES 120, SUNS 95

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and had nine rebounds to carry Minnesota in 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 locked down the lane with 14 points, 16 rebounds and constant shot-altering defense to lead the Wolves 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 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.

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

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

With 3:37 left, Edwards put the bow on this performance by stealing the ball from Durant — after Gobert had poked it loose — and finishing with a slam on the other end.

KNICKS 111, 76ERS 104

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

McBride outscored the 76ers by himself with 13 points in the second quarter, when Joel Embiid had to leave after appearing to reinjure his surgically repaired left knee on a dunk. He returned and rallied the 76ers into the lead in the second half, but Josh Hart hit a couple big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks pull it out.

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 beat Orlando in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series.

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

That experience scarred the Cavs, who entered these playoffs more confident, deeper (at least on paper) and relatively healthy after a regular season filled with injuries.

Mitchell has been slowed for two months with a left knee bone bruise, 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 bad shooting, some of it because of Cleveland’s defense.