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Jokic's 37 points leads Nuggets past Portland 121-113

DENVER (AP) The Denver Nuggets avoided both an emotional letdown and another Damian Lillard masterpiece .

Forty-eight hours after dispatching the Spurs in their first Game 7 triumph in 41 years, the Nuggets rode a 37-point performance from Nikola Jokic to a 121-113 win over the well-rested Portland Trail Blazers in the opener of their second-round series Monday night.

Lillard, who struck for 50 points, including a 37-footer at the buzzer to oust Oklahoma City in five games, scored two more points than Jokic. But he had a-half dozen turnovers, missed 8 of 12 3-point attempts and Gary Harris blocked his 3 from behind in the closing minute to keep the Trail Blazers from closing in.

''We just made him uncomfortable,'' said Jamal Murray, who added 23 points and eight assists for Denver to go with just one turnover.

Despite logging 41 1/2 minutes after playing 43 1/2 two nights earlier, Jokic continued his playoff coming-out party by dominating once more. He made 11 of 18 shots and all 12 of his free throws to go with nine boards and a half dozen assists.

''He's a sponge,'' Paul Millsap said. ''He picks it up. He sees how people are playing him and guarding him and he makes the right play every time. That's what's great about him - he doesn't force anything. Everything is going to be the right play. He's going to make the right reads. He's like a quarterback out there.

''I consider him like a Tom Brady - he's always going to pick you apart and make the right reads. Commend him for doing that at this stage in his career. It's unbelievable.''

Denver coach Michael Malone was more concerned about his team's emotional state than his players' physical state after a hard-fought series with San Antonio while the Blazers, making their sixth straight playoff appearance, were enjoying nearly a week off.

''Saturday night, an emotional high, winning a Game 7, that was part of my biggest concern about tonight,'' Malone said. ''Obviously you're worried about guarding them but how would we react from that emotional hangover? I thought our guys did a pretty good job.''

Game 2 is Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.

The Nuggets were coming off a 90-86 win over San Antonio 48 hours earlier, their first Game 7 victory since May 3, 1978, against Milwaukee.

That, said Jokic, was ''a really good game for us. It's Game 7 against an experienced team and I think the level of physicality, the level of pace was at a really, really high level that night. It was a really tough game for us to win and we won it. It gave us an example of how we need to play.''

That's exactly the kind of mettle Malone was looking for from his team, the youngest in the West.

KANTER RETURNS

The Trail Blazers got a boost from Enes Kanter, who separated his left shoulder in Game 5 against the Thunder. He scored 26 points in his return to the lineup.

''Enes was terrific, very efficient, finished around the basket playing through the shoulder injury,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ''I couldn't have asked any more of him.''

Kanter was more concerned about facing Jokic.

''I didn't even think about my shoulder,'' Kanter said. ''It's the playoffs.''

SLOPPY PLAY

The game was marred by 30 turnovers, but the Blazers turned 12 takeaways to just six points while the Nuggets turned Portland's 18 turnovers into 23 points.

''I think today's game was really sloppy,'' Jokic said. ''There wasn't much defense.''

''It was a good offensive game but I thought the turnovers really made the difference,'' Stotts said.

TIP-INS:

Portland: The Trail Blazers lost three of four to the Nuggets in the regular season, but the Nuggets only outscored them by a cumulative six points. ... The Trail Blazers outshot the Nuggets 51.9% to 50.6%. ...

Denver: The Nuggets are 4-1 at the Pepsi Center in the playoffs after going an NBA-best 37-4 at home during the regular season. ... Denver was 27 of 31 from the free throw line. ... Back-to-back layups by Lillard pulled Portland to within five points with nine minutes left, but Jokic sank a pair of free throws off CJ McCollum's flagrant foul sandwiched by a pair of dunks by Mason Plumlee as Denver pushed its lead back to double digits at 107-96.

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Key Players
D. Lillard
0 PG
N. Jokic
15 C
37.3 Min. Per Game 37.3
23.1 Pts. Per Game 23.1
9.1 Ast. Per Game 9.1
12.1 Reb. Per Game 12.1
47.8 Field Goal % 50.3
44.9 Three Point % 49.2
84.6 Free Throw % 90.9
  Defensive rebound by Gary Harris 0:14
  CJ McCollum missed 2nd of 2 free throws 0:15
  CJ McCollum missed 1st of 2 free throws 0:15
  Shooting foul on Jamal Murray 0:15
  Jamal Murray missed fade-away jump shot 0:23
  Defensive rebound by Torrey Craig 0:46
  Seth Curry missed 3rd of 3 free throws 0:47
+ 1 Seth Curry made 2nd of 3 free throws 0:47
  POR team rebound 0:47
  Seth Curry missed 1st of 3 free throws 0:47
  Shooting foul on Jamal Murray 0:47
Team Stats
Points 113 121
Field Goals 41-79 (51.9%) 41-81 (50.6%)
3-Pointers 11-29 (37.9%) 12-29 (41.4%)
Free Throws 20-27 (74.1%) 27-31 (87.1%)
Total Rebounds 47 42
Offensive 9 7
Defensive 31 27
Team 7 8
Assists 20 22
Steals 6 12
Blocks 5 7
Turnovers 18 12
Fouls 25 22
Technicals 0 0
39 PTS, 3 REB, 6 AST
37 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST
1234T
away team logo 3 Trail Blazers 0-1 32232929113
home team logo 2 Nuggets 1-0 32263528121
Team Stats
away team logo Trail Blazers 0-1 109.7 PPG 45.2 RPG 19.8 APG
home team logo Nuggets 1-0 109.1 PPG 47.7 RPG 24.0 APG
Key Players
D. Lillard PG 26.9 PPG 4.8 RPG 6.6 APG 41.8 FG%
N. Jokic C 25.1 PPG 13.0 RPG 8.4 APG 50.6 FG%
Top Scorers
D. Lillard PG 39 PTS 3 REB 6 AST
N. Jokic C 37 PTS 9 REB 6 AST
51.9 FG% 50.6
37.9 3PT FG% 41.4
74.1 FT% 87.1
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
D. Lillard 39 3 6 12/21 4/12 11/13 2 42 1 0 6 0 3 -6 49
E. Kanter 26 7 0 11/14 0/0 4/4 3 33 0 0 1 2 5 -10 32
C. McCollum 16 4 3 7/17 2/7 0/2 2 37 0 1 2 0 4 -6 25
A. Aminu 2 8 0 1/5 0/1 0/1 3 28 2 1 3 1 7 -12 10
M. Harkless 2 0 4 1/2 0/0 0/0 6 22 2 0 3 0 0 -13 9
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
D. Lillard 39 3 6 12/21 4/12 11/13 2 42 1 0 6 0 3 -6 49
E. Kanter 26 7 0 11/14 0/0 4/4 3 33 0 0 1 2 5 -10 32
C. McCollum 16 4 3 7/17 2/7 0/2 2 37 0 1 2 0 4 -6 25
A. Aminu 2 8 0 1/5 0/1 0/1 3 28 2 1 3 1 7 -12 10
M. Harkless 2 0 4 1/2 0/0 0/0 6 22 2 0 3 0 0 -13 9
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
R. Hood 17 2 1 5/10 3/4 4/4 1 17 0 0 1 0 2 -2 20
S. Curry 4 2 0 1/3 1/2 1/3 1 15 0 1 0 0 2 -1 7
Z. Collins 4 1 0 2/3 0/1 0/0 4 19 1 1 2 0 1 +4 5
M. Leonard 3 5 2 1/3 1/2 0/0 2 12 0 0 0 2 3 +2 12
E. Turner 0 8 4 0/1 0/0 0/0 0 10 0 1 0 4 4 +4 17
J. Layman - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Nurkic - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
S. Labissiere - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Trent Jr. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Simons - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 113 40 20 41/79 11/29 20/27 25 235 6 5 18 9 31 -40 186
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
N. Jokic 37 9 6 11/18 3/5 12/12 3 41 3 2 2 2 7 +16 61
J. Murray 23 0 8 8/15 3/6 4/4 3 33 2 0 1 0 0 +18 40
P. Millsap 19 6 3 7/12 0/2 5/7 4 27 0 1 2 0 6 +6 30
G. Harris 11 5 2 4/10 2/5 1/2 2 34 1 2 2 0 5 +4 21
T. Craig 3 3 0 1/3 1/3 0/0 4 19 0 0 0 1 2 +5 6
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
N. Jokic 37 9 6 11/18 3/5 12/12 3 41 3 2 2 2 7 +16 61
J. Murray 23 0 8 8/15 3/6 4/4 3 33 2 0 1 0 0 +18 40
P. Millsap 19 6 3 7/12 0/2 5/7 4 27 0 1 2 0 6 +6 30
G. Harris 11 5 2 4/10 2/5 1/2 2 34 1 2 2 0 5 +4 21
T. Craig 3 3 0 1/3 1/3 0/0 4 19 0 0 0 1 2 +5 6
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
W. Barton 9 1 1 3/8 1/2 2/2 0 15 0 0 1 1 0 -2 11
M. Beasley 9 4 1 3/7 2/5 1/2 3 27 1 1 1 1 3 +6 16
M. Plumlee 6 6 1 2/4 0/0 2/2 1 24 5 1 1 2 4 -3 19
M. Morris 4 0 0 2/4 0/1 0/0 2 15 0 0 2 0 0 -10 2
I. Thomas - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B. Goodwin - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Lyles - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Welsh - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Lydon - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Hernangomez - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Vanderbilt - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Porter Jr. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 121 34 22 41/81 12/29 27/31 22 235 12 7 12 7 27 +40 206