The Lakers have been fighting to save their season since falling into a 2-10 hole, but tonight, that fight ended as the Denver Nuggets completed the sweep with a 113-111 win in Game four.
After debating whether they should shuffle the starting lineup and bench D’Angelo Russell, Darvin Ham finally pulled the trigger, opting to start Dennis Schröder and Rui Hachimura in place of Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt.
The early results were encouraging as every Lakers’ starter scored within the first five minutes and the Lakers jumped out to an early 11-4 lead.
LeBron James was spectacular all game, but especially in the first half, as he spearheaded the Lakers’ offense with 21 points in the first quarter alone.
LEBRON FOR THREE— NBA (@NBA) May 23, 2023
Unreal bucket... everything going right for him in Q1 on ESPN! pic.twitter.com/K3ACrE7BO4
In another rotation change, Ham turned to Tristan Thompson as the first big off the bench. Despite playing sparsely, Thompson defended the best he could and even threw down two dunks (in 2023) on the other end.
James would play all but four seconds in the first half to ensure the Lakers wouldn’t let up and helped boost the Lakers to a 15-point lead at the break.
LeBron finishes the first half with 31 points.— Hector Diaz (@iamHectorDiaz) May 23, 2023
The only other time LeBron scored 30 in the first half of a playoff game was Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, aka this game: pic.twitter.com/qgY0qrIKu2
But as they’ve done all series, the Nuggets responded. A 15-4 start by Denver quickly cut the lead to just four. Things only snowballed from there as the Lakers’ offense went stagnant and Denver began to dominate the boards and convert on their open looks.
After another offensive rebound, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored and gave the Nuggets a two-point advantage, thus wiping out the double-digit lead the Lakers once had.
With the game beginning to drift away from them, Thompson provided the spark the Lakers were looking for. He started the fourth with a monster dunk to put the Lakers within one possession, guarded Nikola Jokić tough and blocked a Michael Porter Jr. layup. After a Russell elbow jumper, the score was even at 94 and the Lakers were back in it.
Neither team could separate themselves as they both appeared to be exhausted in the closing minutes of the fourth.
James attempted to keep the game close by drawing consecutive charges on Jokic, but the Nuggets continued to make timely plays to keep the Lakers at bay.
Davis hit a pair of free throws to even the score with 1:13 left but Jokić scored his 30th point on another runner, giving the Nuggets a slim lead with just four seconds left in the game.
With the game and the Lakers’ season on the line, James’ layup attempt was stonewalled at the buzzer.
There will be plenty of time to talk about roster construction, but before we do all that, let’s appreciate this iteration of the Los Angeles Lakers.
While a sweep in the Western Conference Finals is not ideal, this team has much to be proud of. They were essentially reconstructed at the trade deadline and had to play at a playoff-level intensity since February.
They were at one time given just a 0.3 percent chance of making the postseason, and they not only made it there, but beat the Memphis Grizzles and then the defending champs. It was a historic run regardless of the final result.
Basketball never stops and neither do we at Silver Screen & Roll. We will be here to cover the rest of the season, the draft, free-agency and beyond. Thank you for reading and supporting our coverage.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.