The short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, 121-109, on Sunday as frustrated Nuggets star Nikola Jokic battled foul trouble and ended the game watching from the bench.
Darius Garland led Cleveland with 26 points and rookie Craig Porter Jr. added a career-high 21 to help the Cavs to a third straight victory despite the absence of star guard Donovan Mitchell and top reserve Caris LeVert.
"Coming into this game I knew a lot of guys were out with injuries, so I knew I had to step it up. Playing against Denver -- champions last year -- you've got to come out ready and that's what we did," Porter said.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic, shouldering a big load with star teammate Jamal Murray still sidelined by a strained hamstring, finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
But he battled foul trouble and saw his streak of 12 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds end.
The Cavs never trailed after the first quarter and pushed their lead to 26 in the fourth, when Nuggets coach Michael Malone pulled Jokic and his other starters.
Evan Mobley scored 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Cleveland, and Jarrett Allen chipped in 15 points.
The Cavs out-rebounded the Nuggets 47-33 and out-scored them in the paint 56-46.
"We just came out with a lot of energy and effort," Allen said. "They're a tough team to beat but we think we have a squad that can go against anybody."
Lopsided victories were the order of the day in Sunday's early games.
Reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid needed just three quarters to score 32 points with 12 rebounds and nine assists, powering the Philadelphia 76ers to a 121-99 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn.
Tyrese Maxey shook off a slow start to score 25 points and hand out 10 assists for the Sixers, who led 61-49 at halftime and never trailed the rest of the way.
With the game in hand, Embiid sat out all of the fourth quarter. His nine assists were his season high, and while he came up just shy of a sixth career triple-double, he said the win was more important.
"I got told I was three assists away, but that's not where my head was at," Embiid said. "We just try to play the right way. They just made it easy, honestly, because they kept doubling and when I'm in that mode, if you want to double, we've got to make you pay."
It was also a blowout in Toronto, where the Raptors led by as many as 40 points on the way to a 142-113 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The Raptors set a franchise record with 44 assists as they handed the Pistons an 11th straight defeat.
And it was a rout in Indianapolis, where the Orlando Magic -- led by 24 points from Paolo Banchero and 19 from Franz Wagner -- beat the Indiana Pacers,128-116.
The Magic, with six players scoring in double figures, led by as many as 40 late in the third quarter.
© Agence France-Presse