LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nikola Jokic is a player unlike anything he’s seen in the NBA, and now he’s taking the Denver Nuggets to a place like never before.
Jokic scored 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, and the Nuggets advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history Monday night, sweeping the Western Conference Finals with a 113-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Canadian Jamal Murray scored 25 points for the top-seeded Nuggets, who overcame LeBron James’ 31-point deficit by 15 points at the end of the first half by finishing a tenacious 4 to claim their first conference title in 47 seasons in the NBA.
“It’s amazing,” Murray said. “It’s so much fun. It’s surreal. We’re going to keep making history, that’s the thing. We’re going to keep that mentality.”
Jokic completed his eighth playoff double in the third quarter, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967 NBA record for triples in a single postseason period. The hulking Serbian quarterback, thanks to the Nuggets’ goalie, also led his valiant defensive effort despite his fifth fumble midway through the fourth quarter.
Jokic didn’t leave the floor for the last 33 minutes of Game 4—and when Denver needed a big basket, Jokic delivered that, too. He edged out Anthony Davis for the final points of the game on a layup with 51 seconds left in the game.
“I think that’s why qualifying is so cool and interesting, because you don’t care how tired you are,” Jokic said. “You don’t care about the minutes, the fouls, the shots, the percentage. You just want to win the game. In some games today, we didn’t play good defense sometimes, (but) you can win it any way you can.”
James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists after the highest half of his postseason career, but even the NBA’s all-time leading scorer couldn’t stop the Nuggets with depth and dynamics for their sixth straight win overall.
James missed two tying shots in the final seconds, with Aaron Gordon getting the official credit for blocking it at the buzzer.
The Nuggets were capping off their stellar season by challenging for their first NBA championship. Denver both eliminated the Lakers for the first time in eight playoff meetings and sweep a playoff series for the first time, potentially winning several days before the Finals.
Unless the Boston Celtics make basketball history by rebounding from a 3-0 deficit in the Eastern Final, eighth-seeded Denver will host the Miami Heat to open the NBA Finals, starting June 1.
James said of the nuggets: “Me and my mom.
“Just well coordinated. They have the score. They have a chance. They have the game and they have the smarts. They have the length. They have depth. And one thing about their team, when you have a guy like Jokic, who’s big like him but also mentally, you can’t really make a lot of mistakes for a guy like that. »
The Lakers erased a seven-point deficit and tied the game with five minutes left, but Jokic hit a 3-pointer from 25 feet—the kind of ridiculous big-man shot Jokic does on a regular basis. After Davis caught two free throws to tie the game with 1:13 remaining, Jokic put the Nuggets back in front again.
James then badly botched a brutal jump sprint with 26 seconds left. Murray botched a conversion to give the Lakers one last chance, but James’ drive at the buzzer was thwarted by Murray and Gordon, who scored 22 points.
“For this game to reach the wire with the ball in the hands of LeBron James, those seconds felt like an eternity,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “When the bell rang, it was almost surreal for a second. I couldn’t be more proud of this band.”
James scored 21 points in the first quarter and worked desperately to keep the Lakers competitive in the final game of his 20th NBA season. But the Lakers couldn’t even force a Game 5, as a seemingly exhausted Davis scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and added 14 rebounds.
Austin Reeves scored 17 points for the Lakers, which swept them in a playoff series for the 11th time in team history, including a best nine out of seven.
The loss ended an amazing turnaround for the seventh seed in Los Angeles after starting the season 2-10 under new head coach Darvin Hamm. After bolstering their roster at the trade deadline and reaching the playoffs with two months of solid play, the Lakers knocked out second seed Memphis and knocked out defending champion Golden State to raise the hopes of their fans around the world. unlikely. games ever. The tournament is set in the history of the NBA.
“Nothing but love and respect for the Denver Nuggets family,” Hamm said. “I like the way they play and what they do. We’ve also seen ways… I think we have the opportunity to do something special here as well, and we just have to build on that.”
Facing elimination for the first time in an impressive elimination run, the Lakers led at halftime, 73-58. After hitting a career-high quarterfinal round of the playoffs in his 282nd postseason game, James set a career-high for points in any first half, but the Nuggets responded with a 36-16 lead in the third quarter.
Nuggets: Kentavius Pope Caldwell converted a four-point play in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points. …the Nuggets are yet to fall behind in a series, and they’re 8-0 at home in the playoffs — 10-0 since March. Denver is 12-3 overall in the playoffs.
Lakers: James gets a three-point cross in the first half when Loeb’s pass to Rui Hachimura goes into the basket. … Hamm shook up his starting lineup, replacing struggling D’Angelo Russell and Jared Vanderbilt with Dennis Schroeder and Hachimura. The moves worked immediately, as the two freshmen combined for 19 points in the first half. … Kyrie Irving watched the game from the stadium. The free agent star guard has been linked with a reunion with James on the Lakers next season. Other fans in the stadium included Vin Diesel, Adam Sandler and Aaron Donald.
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