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Nikola Jokic, Nuggets begin title defense by downing Lakers

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, NBA, Los Angeles Lakers

Nikola Jokic had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Jamal Murray scored 21 points and the host Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-107 to begin defense of their title on Tuesday night.

Michael Porter Jr. had 12 points and 12 rebounds, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope chipped in 20 points and Aaron Gordon finished with 15 for the Nuggets.

LeBron James scored 21 points, Taurean Prince contributed 18, Anthony Davis had 17 -- all in the first half -- Austin Reaves scored 14 and D'Angelo Russell added 11 for Los Angeles.

The Lakers scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, part of a 13-0 run that began at the end of the third, to cut what was once an 18-point deficit down to three at 87-84. They had chances to get closer, but Jokic hit a 3-pointer, fed Caldwell-Pope for an 18-footer and made a jumper to give Denver an 11-point lead with 7:19 left.

Los Angeles responded to make it 103-96, but Murray drained a 3-pointer, Caldwell-Pope hit another mid-range jumper and Gordon threw home a dunk to make it 110-96. Los Angeles got back within 11 but a 3-pointer from Porter and a layup by Jokic closed it out.

The Nuggets came out inspired after receiving their championship rings and watching the banner being raised to the rafters. They used a 12-2 run to take a six-point lead 4:02 through the first quarter and kept building on it.

Caldwell-Pope hit a 3-pointer to make it 27-16 and Reggie Jackson drained one from deep to give Denver a 14-point lead heading into the second quarter.

Another Jackson 3-pointer early in the second made it 40-22, but the Lakers chipped away, scoring the last six points of the period to cut the deficit to 63-54 at halftime.

Los Angeles got within five to start the second half, but the Nuggets recovered and took a 16-point lead late in the third quarter. The Lakers scored the final nine points of the quarter, and a 3-pointer from Russell made it 87-80 heading into the fourth. — Field Level Media/Reuters