The Nuggets, recently removed from beating the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 for their first playoff series win since 2009, earned a 121-113 win over the rested Trail Blazers, who cruised by the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games during the first round.
Along with his 37 points, Jokic had nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in 41 minutes. He shot 11-of-18 from the floor, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
"He's a sponge," Nuggets forward Paul Millsap told reporters. "He picks it up. He sees how people are playing him and guarding him and he makes the right play every time. That's what's great about him, he doesn't force anything. Everything is going to be the right play. He's going to make the right reads.
"He's like a quarterback out there. I consider him like a Tom Brady. He's always going to pick you apart and make the right reads. Commend him for doing that at this stage in his career. It's unbelievable."
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray had 23 points and eight assists in 34 minutes. Millsap dropped 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. Gary Harris added 11 points and five boards.
The Trail Blazers countered Jokic with Lillard's 39-point outburst. Lillard, who dropped 50 points, including a 37-foot buzzer-beater to eliminate the Thunder in Game 5, shot 12-for-21 from the field with six assists and three rebounds.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver.