The Denver Nuggets made history on Monday night, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 to reach their first-ever NBA Finals. The Nuggets had 93 playoff wins entering the game, the most all-time without a Finals berth. It has taken Denver 46 seasons to reach this point, the most seasons before a Finals appearance in NBA history.
In a scintillating playoff duel with LeBron James, Nikola Jokic turned in yet another triple-double to help the Nuggets complete their historic playoff sweep. Jokic was named the Magic Johnson Western Conference finals MVP, collecting his NBA playoff-record eighth triple-double of the postseason with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists in 45 minutes.
James, who scored 31 points in the first half before finishing with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in 48 minutes, tried everything he could to stop Jokic and the Nuggets, including scoring the most points in a playoff half in his storied career. James became the oldest player in NBA history to score 40 points in a playoff game at the age of 38.
Jokic said he wasn’t scared but was “worried” about trying to close the Lakers out with James on the other side after taking a 3-0 lead in the series. Jokic said the Lakers superstar is capable of doing “everything.” It was as if Jokic was foretelling what was to come.
Lakers’ early lead disappears in the third quarter
The Lakers treated the game like there was no tomorrow, bringing D’Angelo Russell off the bench for the first time in the playoffs and having the rest of the starting lineup each score eight points or more by halftime to take a 73-58 lead into intermission.
However, the Lakers’ lead would disappear by the 4:39 mark of the third quarter, when Jokic hit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a layup with the foul, giving Jokic his 10th assist of the game and his sixth triple-double in his last eight games. The Nuggets went on a 34-14 run to take a five-point lead into the fourth quarter.
With both teams playing a tightly-contested fourth quarter, Jokic answered James’ 40 points with a fadeaway 3 at the shot-clock buzzer with 2:50 to play. With the game tied at 111, Jokic snapped the tie with a driving layup with 51 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, James missed a fadeaway 3 but Jamal Murray could not seal the game as he missed a shot inside the paint.
With 4.0 seconds left, the Lakers called timeout. James attempted a drive but could not get a shot off as Aaron Gordon blocked his attempt to send the Nuggets to the NBA Finals for the first time ever.
The Denver Nuggets made history on Monday night, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 to reach their first-ever NBA Finals. Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with his eighth triple-double of the postseason, collecting 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists. LeBron James tried everything he could to stop Jokic and the Nuggets, including scoring the most points in a playoff half in his storied career, but it wasn’t enough. The Lakers’ early lead disappeared in the third quarter, and Jokic made clutch plays in the fourth quarter to seal the game and send the Nuggets to the NBA Finals for the first time ever.
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