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Michael Porter Jr. van Nuggets believes that the court is his refuge from his brothers’ problems

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

DENVER (AP) — Michael Porter Jr. controlled his thoughts on the couch as best he could and used the basketball court as his safe place.

It wasn’t easy, he said, to keep his attention from wandering to his younger brother Jontay, who was banned by the NBA in a gambling investigation last week. Or his other brother, Coban, who was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday for a fatal drunk-driving accident.

But the sixth-year pro nicknamed “MPJ” couldn’t stop thinking about his Denver Nuggets teammates, who have taken him under their wing and made sure he stays strong.

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

“Some bad and sad things happened to some of my brothers.” said Porter then in the locker room. “But I still have 15, 16 brothers here. So I knew I had to be here for them, come here and do my job and prepare to do it at a high level.”

UConn Huskies Men's Basketball Head Coach Dan Hurley celebrates his second straight national championship with his team and fans during a gathering outside the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.  on Saturday April 13, 2024.
New Canaan outfielder Alex Benevento (5) gets a hit in the high school baseball game between New Canaan and Staples at Staples High School in Westport, Conn., April 15, 2024.

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

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“Because his mentality is where it is, I applaud him,” Caldwell-Pope said. “As a brother we are going to keep him straight.”

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

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

And how much Michael Porter Jr. also means that basketball helped him escape, it was still hard.

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“We’re human, so we carry our emotions and the things that happen off the field onto the field,” Porter said. “But I’m mentally strong.”

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

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

Delivering these types of performances earned praise from Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic.

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“That’s why basketball is such a beautiful game, that you don’t think about anything other than what’s happening on the floor,” said Jokic, who had 32 points and 12 boards. “Before and after, of course, things happen to you. But I think we all reached out to him and of course family is the first thing. But we’re also like family. So hopefully he will find peace.” and mentally he will be in a good place.

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

“I’ve got to go hang it at the house,” said Porter, who played more than 37 minutes and had no turnovers. “Each of them (teammates) texted me individually and told me they have my back.

“If I need anything, they have me.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA