Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., center right, is pressured...

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., center right, is pressured by Los Angeles Lakers forward Taurean Prince, center left, during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Denver. Credit: AP/Jack Dempsey

DENVER — Michael Porter Jr. checked his thoughts at the bench as best he could and used the basketball court as his safe place.

It wasn't easy, he said, to keep his focus from drifting toward his younger brother, Jontay, who was banned by the NBA in a gambling probe last week. Or his other brother, Coban, who was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for a fatal drunken driving crash.

But the sixth-year pro nicknamed “MPJ” kept thinking of his Denver Nuggets teammates who have taken him under their wing and made sure he's staying strong.

Porter delivered a 19-point, eight-rebound, two-block performance for the Nuggets in a 114-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night in Game 1 of their first-round series.

“Some bad and sad stuff happened to a couple of my brothers," Porter said in the locker room afterward. "But I've got 15, 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.”

That level of focus impressed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who made four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points, all in the second half.

“For his mindset to be where it is, I applaud him,” Caldwell-Pope said. “As a brother, we’re going to keep him straight.”

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) goes up to...

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) goes up to shoot against Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Denver. Credit: AP/Jack Dempsey

Porter missed practice Friday to attend the sentencing of younger brother Coban Porter, a former guard at the University of Denver, for a drunken driving crash that killed a 42-year-old woman last year.

That was after another brother, former Toronto Raptors reserve Jontay Porter, 24, received a lifetime ban from the NBA for betting on basketball and disclosing confidential information to other bettors.

And as much as Michael Porter Jr. wants to say basketball has helped him escape, it was still difficult.

“We’re human, so we carry our emotions and the things that go on off of the court, on to the court," Porter said. “But I’m mentally tough.”

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr, right, goes up to...

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr, right, goes up to shoot against Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, left, during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Denver. Credit: AP/Jack Dempsey

He has gone through several back procedures since college and basically missed two NBA seasons before playing in all but one game this season.

“I’ve been through a lot through my whole career,” Porter said. “It was just another one of those things that I had to try to play through.”

To turn in this kind of performance earned praise from Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic.

“That’s why basketball is such a beautiful game, that you don’t think about nothing except what’s going on on the floor,” said Jokic, who had 32 points and 12 boards. "Before and after, of course, the stuff hits you. But I think we all reached out to him and of course, family is the first thing. But we are some kind of family, too. So, hopefully he’s going to find peace and he’s going to be in a good spot, mentally.”

Porter appreciated the support. He also appreciated the gift that left on the chair in front of his locker (he believes it might have been Caldwell-Pope or Jamal Murray). It was a poster with a quote: “I’m going to do today what others won’t, so that tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”

“I’ve got to go hang it up at the house,” said Porter, who played more than 37 minutes and didn’t have a turnover. “Each one of them (teammates) texted me separately and just told me they’ve got my back.

"If I need anything, they've got me.”

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