LOS ANGELES, CA – The Denver Nuggets are headed to their first ever NBA Finals after a 113-111 game four victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena. LeBron James was phenomenal in defeat, scoring 40 points and single handedly keeping the Lakers within striking distance.
Denver completed a sweep over Los Angeles by doing what they did in the previous three games. Superstar center Nikola Jokic came up clutch with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, including the game-winning bucket with less than a minute remaining. Jamal Murray dominated the court, and in the end the talented Nuggets were just too skilled.
Trailing by two with four seconds remaining and their season hanging in the balance, LeBron drove to the rim, but the Nuggets colapsed around him and he was unable to get off a shot.
Denver trailed by fifteen points at halftime, 73-58. It was a tale of two halves, as the Nuggets got hot, while the Lakers failed to hold their large lead.
LeBron James seemed poised to steal the headlines after dropping 31 points in the first half. But Denver fought back, outscoring LA 36-16 in the third quarter to seize control of the game.
LeBron James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. At 38 years old he became the oldest player in NBA history to score 40 points in a playoff game.
James started the game on fire, scoring 21 points in the first quarter as the Lakers took a 34-26 lead.
James shocked the NBA landscape by confessing to ESPN he will consider retirement this offseason. James ended his news conference by telling reporters, “Going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.”
For the Nuggets, the NBA Finals has been a long time coming. It has taken Denver 46 seasons to reach this point, the most seasons before a Finals appearance in NBA history. Denver had 93 playoff wins entering Monday night, the most all-time without a Finals berth.
Jokic was named Western Conference Finals MVP, he collected his NBA playoff-record eighth triple double.
A Kentavious Caldwell-Pope layup 7:21 into the third extended the Nuggets run to 24-8 and give them their first lead of the game at 82-81.
In the final five minutes, the game remained a back-and-forth battle through the final minute. But as they’ve done all postseason, the Nuggets made the big plays when it mattered most down the stretch.
A Jokić layup in traffic with 51 seconds remaining gave Denver the lead for good at 113-111. All five Nuggets starters scored in double figures. Murray finished with 25 points in the series clinching win.
Anthony Davis finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal. Rui Hachimura tallied 10 points in his postseason debut in the starting lineup.
The Nuggets are on the the way to the NBA Finals. The Lakers, meanwhile saw a midseason turnaround and unexpected playoff run from the play-in come up short against a superior Denver team.
Denver will get a long break before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which is slated for June 1 in Denver.
Any other year for the Lakers its championship or failure. But most would agree this is not the case for this gritty, overachieving group who quickly gelled as a formidable unit in the later stages of the season.