LOS ANGELES—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 scoring 40 points and 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 scored 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 too skilled.
Trailing by two with four seconds remaining and their season hanging in the balance, LeBron drove to the rim, but the Nuggets collapsed around him and he was unable to get off a shot.
Denver trailed by 15 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.
James seemed poised to steal the headlines after dropping 31 points in the first half. Denver fought back, outscoring LA 36-16 in the third quarter to seize control of the game. He had 10 rebounds and 8 assists during the game. 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.
For the Nuggets, the NBA Finals has been a long time coming. It has taken Denver 46 seasons to reach this point. Denver had 93 playoff wins entering Monday’s game, the most all-time without a NBA 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.
A Jokić layup in traffic with 51 seconds remaining gave Denver the lead for good at 113-111. All five Nuggets starters scored 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 Lakers saw a midseason turnaround and unexpected playoff run from the play-in came 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, Colorado.
Any other year for the Lakers it’s championship or failure. 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.