Michael Porter Jr. Tough Week Ends with Game 1 Win

Everyone would have understood if Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets was off his game on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. All week, his head was a million miles away from the defending champions’ first round matchup against LeBron James and L.A.

Early last week, Porter’s younger brother, Jontay, was banned for life by the NBA. The severe penalty came for placing bets on NBA games, giving information to a bettor, and claiming to be sick so a bettor would win a proposition bet. It’s the harshest punishment handed out by the NBA since a player was banned in 1954 for gambling-related offenses.

If that wasn’t distracting enough, on Friday, the day before Game 1 in Denver, Porter’s other brother, Coban, was sentenced to six years in prison for killing another driver while driving drunk.

“Some bad and sad stuff happened to a couple of my brothers,” Porter told reporters in the locker room following the Nuggets 114-103 win. “But I’ve got 15 or 16 more brothers in here. So I knew I had to be here for them, come in here and do my job and try to prepare to do it at a high level.”

Porter did exactly that, finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds, and two blocked shots – all numbers that were above his regular season averages. In the four-game sweep of the Lakers last year in the Western Conference Finals, Porter never scored more than 16 points.

It was a special night for Porter that was noticed by his teammates.

“For his mindset to be where it is, I applaud him,” said Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half of Saturday’s win. “As a brother, we’re going to keep him straight.”

Game 2 Monday Night

The Nuggets win on Saturday night was the ninth-straight time they beat the Lakers. There was the four-game sweep in the playoffs last year, preceded by a regular season win. This year, Denver beat L.A. in all three regular season meetings, and now they are up 1-0 in the first round.

Bookmakers have the Nuggets as seven-point favorites to make it 10 straight wins. In the last six of those wins, Denver also covered the spread.

The big difference for the Nuggets are the complementary players. Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and Jamal Murray had 22 points and 10 assists. But they also got the 19 points from Porter Jr., 12 points from Caldwell-Pope, and 12 points and 11 rebounds from Aaron Gordon.

The two stars for the Lakers were great – James finished with 27 points and eight assists, and Anthony Davis had 32 points and 14 rebounds. But only four other Lakers even scored, compared to nine scorers for the Nuggets. Denver also played smart and careful basketball, committing just four turnovers, compared to 12 for L.A.

The last time the Lakers beat the Nuggets was December 16, 2022. And considering Game 2 is back at Ball Arena in Denver, where the Nuggets are 34-8 this year, there is no reason to think that Monday is the day the streak ends.

The seven-point spread is the largest in the series since they played in the bubble in 2020. But Denver’s last four wins over the Lakers have been by 12 points, 8 points, 10 points, and 11 points.

“I don’t ever get into the ‘here we go again’ mindset,’ ” said James. “One game, they protected their home court. We have another opportunity on Monday to come back and be better.”

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