For the first time in a decade, the Los Angeles Lakers are heading to the NBA Finals. With a 117-107 win over the Denver Nuggets, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. have closed out the Western Conference Finals in five games.
This should have been an easier win than it was. The Lakers went into halftime leading by 10, but the Nuggets outscored them 33-26 in the third quarter as Los Angeles relaxed its defensive intensity. Only because of an Anthony Davis 3-pointer in the closing seconds did the Lakers even have a lead heading into the fourth. The comeback kids from Denver were very much alive.
But the Lakers were able to turn it on in the final quarter, in no small part due to the play of their stars. LeBron James (38 points, 10 assists and 15 rebounds in his 27th playoff triple-double) relentlessly hunted Jamal Murray on switches to start, while Anthony Davis (27 points on 8-16 shooting) hit a huge three to cap a 7-0 run to extended their lead to 102-92 with 6:11 left.
Denver continued to push, but the game was pretty much academic at that point, as James continued to hit ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot to score 16 points in the quarter and finish off a job the the Jazz and Clippers previously could not: Ending the Nuggets’ season after taking a 3-1 lead in a series.
The Lakers will now wait to see who will win the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics before finding out their opponent in the Finals (the Heat currently lead 3-2). This may have been a frustrating win, but at least the banged-up Lakers will now be able to let themselves rest and relax a bit before the fight for banner No. 17 continues. The job’s not finished, but they’re only four wins away now. That’s worth at least a small celebration.