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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Nikola Jokic's big game leads Denver Nuggets over Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1

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Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic [NBA Getty Images]

The Denver Nuggets struck first in this series, taking Game 1 on their home floor defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 121-113.

Damian Lillard put together another impressive performance with 39 points and six assists but Nikola Jokic still stole the show.

Jokic continued his tear going for 37 points, nine boards and six assists to lead his team to victory and get this series started on the right foot.

The Nuggets got good minutes from their starting unit, as well as Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee off the bench who helped make a difference in the outcome. The Trail Blazers had a good scoring output from Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood, but needed more from CJ McCollum to stay competitive.

For more from the Nuggets Game 1 win, we have you covered with takeaways below...

Jokic strikes again

It has been quite the coming out party for Nikola Jokic's first NBA Playoffs experience.

After nearly averaging a triple-double to lead his team out of the first round, he was right back at it in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Jokic was the best player on the floor - he posted 37 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks while shooting 61.1% from the field with three 3-pointers.

His assist total was a slightly lower than usual, but that's because The Joker was on attack mode all game. The Trail Blazers, without their defensively imposing big man Jusuf Nurkic, struggled to find a matchup that worked on Jokic.

No matter who was lined up to stop the MVP candidate, there was no answer. Jokic utilized each mismatch to reach his impressive scoring total, but his aggressiveness also got him to the free throw line 12 times, a personal best for this postseason.

He made the most of those attempts, too, knocking down all 12.

Jokic did the majority of his damage in the third quarter where the Nuggets created some comfortable separation that they would withhold for the rest of the game. The All-Star centre scored 15 points in the frame, converting four of his seven attempts from the field while knocking down a 3-pointer and six free throws.

He has now scored north of 20 points in six of his eight playoff games, learning from his mistake of only taking nine shot attempts in Game 1 against the Spurs, the first playoff game of his career.

Murray's importance

No matter how well the rest of the team plays, the Nuggets need Jamal Murray at his best to win games. We've seen it already this postseason that when Murray is off, the results don't favour Denver.

Luckily for the No. 2 seed, Murray brought his A-game for Game 1.

Murray did everything well in this one - he scored efficiently, got his teammates involved, held his own defensively, took care of the ball and led the offence.

He finished with 23 points on 8-for-15 (53.3%) shooting from the field, going 3-for-6 from long range. He created 19 points off of his eight assists with 16 of those 19 points resulting in buckets to his pick-and-roll companion Jokic.

On top of his scoring and passing, he came up with two steals and only turned the ball over one time in 34 minutes of play. To top it off, he finished with a game-best plus-18 plus/minus to further prove just how valuable Murray was in this contest.

When the Nuggets' floor general competes at this level they're tough to beat.

Enes Kanter fights through shoulder injury

Battling a shoulder injury, Enes Kanter still provided plenty of offensive support for Damian Lillard, recording 26 points and seven rebounds on an efficient 11-14 form the field.

Kanter suffered a separated shoulder in the final game of their series against the Thunder, entering today's game as 'questionable' but the big man fought through the discomfort, giving the Blazers some much-needed offence on a night where Al Farouq-Aminu, Mo Harkless and CJ McCollumm struggled to get going.

While Kanter was crucial on the offensive end, he had his struggles defensively as Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic worked the high pick-and-roll to perfection, targeting Kanter plenty, with the Nuggets scoring 50 points in the paint.

Without Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers are going to rely on Kanter in long stretches in this series, and he'll certainly have his hands full with Jokic and Paul Millsap, who combined for 56 points in Game 1.

Portland need more from CJ McCollum

If the Trail Blazers are going to have a chance against the Nuggets' high-octane offence, they need a much more aggressive CJ McCollum than what we saw in Game 1.

McCollum managed just 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting, going 2-of-7 from the three-point line and 0-of-2 at the charity stripe in 38 minutes of action.

After a hot start, scoring 10 first-quarter points, McCollum struggled to make his mark through the next three quarters, scoring just four points in the second half. Without him knocking down shots, spacing becomes an issue for Portland.

A lot of credit has to go to Gary Harris, who did a solid job contesting McCollum's shots and limiting his ability to get into the paint, with a great defensive effort in Game 1.

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