Nuggets earn 1st Finals appearance with sweep of Lakers


Denver will play in the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history after eviscerating L.A. in a dominant way in Game 4.

The Denver Nuggets won the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers 113-111 to go to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history. Nikola Jokic led the team with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists.

The top-seeded Nuggets, led by Jamal Murray’s 25 points, overcame LeBron James’ 31-point first half and a 15-point halftime deficit in Game 4 to win their first conference championship in 47 NBA seasons.

Despite having the best scoring postseason half of his career, James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, but even the greatest scorer in NBA history couldn’t prevent the talented, spirited Nuggets from winning their sixth game overall in a row.

In the last few seconds, Aaron Gordon appeared to block two attempts that would have tied the game that James missed.

By the third quarter, Jokic had recorded his eighth triple-double of the playoffs, shattering Wilt Chamberlain’s previous mark of seven set in 1967. When Denver needed a big basket, Jokic provided it as well. The Serbian big man also spearheaded the Nuggets’ tough defensive effort despite picking up his fifth foul halfway through the fourth quarter.

With five minutes left, the Lakers had reversed a seven-point deficit and leveled the score when Jokic sank a 25-foot fallaway 3-pointer. With 1:11 remaining, Anthony Davis made two free throws to tie the game. Jokic then forced his way past Davis for the game-tying layup.

With 26 seconds left, James then narrowly missed a bizarre fallaway jumper. James’ drive at the buzzer was denied by Murray and Gordon, who combined for 22 points, after Murray missed a turnaround to give the Lakers one final opportunity.

The Nuggets will compete for their first NBA championship to cap off a fantastic season under coach Michael Malone. Denver not only defeated the Lakers for the first time in eight playoff encounters but also won a series of playoff games, earning the team many days off before the championship game.

Denver will host the eighth-seeded Miami Heat to begin the NBA Finals, which begin on June 1, unless the Boston Celtics create basketball history by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals.

In the final game of his 20th NBA season, James scored 21 points in the opening frame and gave his all to keep the Lakers in the game. However, the Lakers were unable to even force a Game 5, as an obviously worn-out Davis scored 10 of his 21 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the last frame.

For the 11th time in team history, including nine best-of-seven series, the Lakers were swept in a playoff series, with Austin Reaves scoring 17 points.

Los Angeles, the seventh-seeded team, lost, putting a stop to their remarkable turnaround after a 2-10 start to the season under new coach Darvin Ham. The Los Angeles Lakers raised hopes for one of the most unlikely championship runs in NBA history after adding to their roster at the trade deadline and advancing into the postseason with two months of strong play. The Lakers then defeated second-seeded Memphis and eliminated defending champion Golden State.

James and the Lakers replied with their finest half of the series as they faced elimination for the first time in their amazing playoff journey, taking a 73-58 lead into halftime on James’ strong shoulders. In his record-setting 282nd postseason game, he tied his playoff career high for a quarter with 21 points in the opening frame. Then he equaled the most points scored in a single first half of his career.

However, the Nuggets fought back with a furious third period, seizing the lead for the first time less than eight minutes after intermission. Prior to the Lakers’ comeback, Denver had increased its advantage to seven points. Davis’ putback slam tied the score with 5:02 remaining.

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