ikola Jokić leads Denver Nuggets to victory over LA Lakers as title defense begins on NBA Opening Night

CNNNikola Jokić led the Denver Nuggets to a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night of the 2023-24 season as the NBA champions began their campaign to secure a second successive ring.

Two-time NBA MVP Jokić finished with a triple-double – 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists – as the Nuggets won 119-107 at Ball Arena in Colorado.

All-time top scorer LeBron James led the way for Los Angeles with 21 points in just 29 minutes on the floor.

But it was the defending NBA champion which got its season off to the perfect start, with clear aspirations of repeat success.

“Last year was amazing, we got one ring. Who wants another?” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said during the team’s ring ceremony.

A celebration

It was a special evening for the Nuggets, as the players received their championship rings and their title banner was raised to the rafters of the arena in a commemorative ceremony in front of the home crowd ahead of the season-opener.

The bespoke rings which the players received had a number of elements to immortalize the organization’s first-ever NBA title.

The ring features 16 carats of diamonds, rubies and blue sapphires to represent the Nuggets’ colors, as well as the 16 postseason wins that it took to win the NBA championship. The word ‘Nuggets’ is written on the front of the ring in 24 points of yellow diamonds to represent the 24 years at Ball Arena.

Surrounding the perimeter of the ring top were 89 points of red rubies, referencing the amount of points the Nuggets held the Miami Heat to in the championship-clinching Game 5 victory.

On one side, there are the words “WORLD CHAMPIONS” with the Denver Nuggets retro logo and the team’s regular season record. Above that, there’s a single row of 15 stones to signify the 15 playoff games played at Ball Arena last season.

The other side has each player’s name and number with the team’s mantra “BRING IT ON,” while “5280” is written on the top and bottom of the face of the ring to represent Denver’s altitude above sea level.

In what was a rematch of the Western Conference Finals last season, the reigning NBA champions looked like they hadn’t missed a beat, in particular on offense.


After his traditional summer, comprised of returning to his homeland of Serbia and watching horse racing, Jokić was his unguardable self, spraying passes all over the court and hitting shots from tough angles.

He was helped by his supporting cast much like last season, with Jamal Murray finishing with 21 points and six assists and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope adding 20 points and three steals.

A big first quarter gave the Nuggets an early head start, but the Lakers hung around, cutting the lead to under five on multiple occasions, until a 21-10 run in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for Denver.

“I think we trust and believe in each other, and that’s why we played really good in the fourth quarter,” Jokić said after the game.

Suns hold off Warriors, 108-104

Elsewhere, the Phoenix Suns began their season in impressive fashion, traveling to the Bay Area to take on the Golden State Warriors and winning 108-104.

The Suns shot into an early lead before the Warriors dragged themselves back into the game with some hot shooting and stifling defense.

But in the clutch moments, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant – who had a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds – were able to provide just enough key shots to give Phoenix a narrow victory.

Booker led the way with 32 points, six rebounds and eight assists, with Steph Curry of the Warriors going toe-for-toe with 27 points and five rebounds of his own.