Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 12 rebounds for the Denver Nuggets as the defending NBA champions rolled 114-103 past LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in their NBA playoffs series opener on Saturday night.

Ball Arena was rocking all night, and Nuggets fans made sure to let the Lakers hear it:

Denver swept the Lakers in last season’s Western Conference finals, the next-to-last step the Nuggets had to clear before claiming their first NBA title. Los Angeles hasn't beaten the Nuggets since Dec. 16, 2022. They’ll try again Monday night in Game 2 at Ball Arena, where Denver is now 34-8 this season.

As the defending NBA Champions, the Nuggets are headed into the NBA Playoffs with a target on their backs. But they didn't seem to be stressed against the Lakers.

One sign of their relaxed attitude – Jokic, who's starring in a teaser for “Despicable Me 4” where he seeks therapy because the Minions think he's their boss, arrived at Ball Arena decked out in a black-and-gray striped scarf and gray pants, looking like Felonius Gru — the lead character from the movie franchise.


Lakers in trouble against Nuggets?

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts on the court floor during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets in game one of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena
© Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

For all the x-factors and adjustments, many believe that the Lakers' Round 1 series vs. the Nuggets may simply boil down to star-power. In this case, will LeBron James and Anthony Davis outperform Jokic and Jamal Murray?

In Game 1 of the series, they kind of did, but it turned out that balanced play was the actual difference.

Anthony Davis had 32 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists for the Lakers, while LeBron 27 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. Most nights, that would be enough for Los Angeles to feel good about their chances, but no one else could get anything going against the Nuggets.

D'Angelo Russell struggled to a 6-20 shooting night. Rui Hachimura only managed seven points in 31 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie went scoreless. If the Lakers want to hang in against the Nuggets in this series, their role players will need to do a better job stepping up the rest of the way.

While Denver is clearly led by Jokic, they managed to get contributions up and down the lineup.

Aside from Jokic, two other Nuggets players posted double-doubles — Jamal Murray (22 points, 10 assists) and Aaron Gordon (12 points, 11 rebounds) — and Michael Porter Jr. came close with 19 points and eight boards of his own.

Now, the Lakers look to regroup, watch film, and see if they can find a way to stop Jokic – the NBA's best player – who has looked nothing but unstoppable for several seasons now.

Game 2 between the Nuggets and Lakers takes place on Monday night at 7pm PST.