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Jokic leads Denver Nuggets past LeBron’s Lakers 113-111, in first NBA Finals

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, and the Denver Nuggets advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history on Monday night, sweeping the Western Conference Finals with a 113-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jamal Murray scored 25 points for the top-seeded Nuggets, who overcame LeBron James’ 31-point first half and a 15-point halftime deficit with a tenacious Game 4 finish to win their first conference title in 47 NBA seasons.

James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists after the highest-scoring half of his playoff career, but even the leading scorer in NBA history couldn’t stop the deep and dynamic Nuggets from claiming their sixth consecutive win overall.

James missed two equalizers in the final seconds, Aaron Gordon appearing to block his shot at the buzzer.

Jokic won his eighth playoff triple-double in the third quarter, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967 NBA record for triple-doubles in a single postseason. The Serbian big man also led the Nuggets’ tenacious defensive effort despite his fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter – and when Denver needed a big basket, Jokic delivered it too.

The Lakers erased a seven-point deficit and tied it with five minutes left, but Jokic hit a 3-point drop from 25 feet. After Anthony Davis hit two free throws to tie the game with 1:11 left, Jokic fought his way past Davis for the tiebreaker layup.

James then badly missed a weird drop jump with 26 seconds left. After Murray missed a turnover to give the Lakers one last chance, James’ drive at the buzzer was thwarted by Murray and Gordon, who scored 22 points.

The Nuggets will end their superb season under coach Michael Malone by playing for their first NBA championship. Denver both eliminated the Lakers for the first time in eight playoff games and swept a playoff series for the first time, likely earning several days off before the Finals.

Unless the Boston Celtics make basketball history by rallying from their 3-0 Eastern Finals deficit, Denver will host the eighth seed Miami Heat to open the Eastern Finals. the NBA, starting June 1.

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, with a seemingly exhausted Davis scoring 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and adding 14 rebounds.

Austin Reaves scored 17 points for the Lakers, who were swept into a playoff series for the 11th time in team history, including a series-best nine of seven.

The loss ended an incredible turnaround for seventh-seeded Los Angeles after starting the season 2-10 under new coach Darvin Ham. After bolstering their roster at the trade deadline and surging into the playoffs with two months of solid play, the Lakers then knocked out second-seeded Memphis and knocked out defending champion Golden State to raise hopes. of their fans around the world for one of the most unlikely championship races. in NBA history.

Facing elimination for the first time in their remarkable playoff run, James and the Lakers responded with their best half of the series, taking a 73-58 halftime lead on James’ broad shoulders. He had 21 points in the first quarter, tying his postseason career high for one quarter in his record-breaking 282nd playoff game. He then tied his career high for points in any first half.

But the Nuggets responded with a relentless third quarter, taking their first lead less than eight minutes after halftime. Denver pushed their lead to seven before the Lakers rallied, Davis’ dropback dunk tying it with 5:02 remaining.


Nuggets: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope converted a four-point play in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points. … The Nuggets haven’t trailed in any series yet, and they’re 8-0 at home in the playoffs — 10-0 since March. Denver is 12-3 overall in the playoffs.

Lakers: James got an accidental 3-pointer in the first half when his lobbed pass to Rui Hachimura went into the basket. … Ham shook up his starting lineup for the Lakers’ last chance, replacing struggling D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt with Dennis Schröder and Hachimura. The moves immediately worked, with the two new starters combining for 19 points in the first half. … James’ 21 points were the most by a Lakers player in the first quarter of the playoffs since at least 1997. … Veteran Tristan Thompson scored four points in 10 minutes during the most playing time of his career at the Lakers, which started the last weekend of the regular season. … Kyrie Irving watched the game from the court. The star free agent guard has been linked with a reunion with James over the Lakers next season. Other fans present pitchside included Vin Diesel, Adam Sandler and Aaron Donald.


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