LeBron James’ Lakers swept 4-0 by Denver, which reaches the first final in its history
Los Angeles Lakers winger LeBron James leaves the court with his head bowed after his elimination in the Western Conference Finals against Denver. May 22, 2023. ASHLEY LANDIS/AP This is…
This is a first for Denver. In nearly half a century of presence in the NBA (47 years), the Nuggets had never managed to qualify for the finals. The Colorado team will try to win a title, after its impressive qualification, at the expense of the Lakers swept 4-0, despite a great LeBron James, Monday, May 22 in the play-offs.
THE “King” did not want to abdicate and he did everything to obtain a reprieve in Los Angeles, achieving one of the most successful matches of his already prodigious career, at 38, with 40 points scored including 31 in the first period alone (at 11/13 on shots!), a new personal record set in two quarters in a post-season game.
Exhausted, he nevertheless failed at the buzzer to snatch the extension near the circle and the Denver camp to scream his joy in a Crypto. com Arena silenced, even deserted by long-time fan Jack Nicholson before this decisive match, fearing perhaps that it would be the last of the season for its purples and golds.
The Nuggets, seeded number one in the West, were remarkably solid and calm, even when the storm blew in the first period, which was 15 points behind, without ever having been ahead in the score.
Recital by Nikola Jokic
But when they returned from the locker room, Michael Malone’s men, who had never given the impression of panicking even in the tough, as sure of their collective strength, came back much more conquering, like Nikola Jokic, author of 13 of his 30 points and who finished in triple double (14 rebounds, 13 ists) almost as usual.
And the Lakers then showed, again, real weaknesses (36-14) to be behind by five lengths at the start of the last twelve minutes (94-89). A last quarter where Anthony Davis (21 pts, 14 rbds, 3 blocks), too erased until then, finally released his muscles underneath, countering Jokic before dunking him. The Serb had just taken his fifth foul, but no Laker had the idea of going to tickle him under it in the last two minutes to take advantage of it and it was he, 73 seconds from time, who put the basket of gains strength.
The Denver Nuggets congratulate Nikola Jokic after lifting the NBA Western Conference Champions Trophy. On May 22, 2023, in Los Angeles, USA. ALLEN BEREZOVSKY / AFP
He was obviously not the only one for Denver to weigh in, since his four starting teammates scored between 13 and 25 points, Jamal Murray being the most prolific of these. And that’s what made the difference, because James was an exemplary leader too lonely, limited to 9 points in the last two quarters (10 rebounds, 9 ists).
“He played an extraordinary game, we couldn’t stop him in the first half. Then we figured out a way to make him take harder shots. But he remains one of the best players in the history of this sport.greeted him Jokic.
Like an air of revenge
“It’s a great effort from the whole team. We don’t give up. They jumped on us at the start, they were better, more aggressive, they scored easily. But we moved on and everyone rose to the occasion. It was a collective work: there is not just one guy.he added.
For the Colorado franchise, this qualification is a sweet revenge taken on that of California, which blocked its way at this stage three times, in 1985, 2009 and 2020. It had failed for the first time in 1978 against the Seattle SuperSonics.
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Thus, the challenge was too high for the Lakers, whose presence in the Conference Finals was unlikely this winter when they stuttered their basketball and vegetated for a time in 13ᵉ place, in the heart of a chaotic season.
Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone on May 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, USA. ASHLEY LANDIS/AP
Reinforced by convincing transfers in February, carried by LeBron James, always so thirsty for glory, and by Anthony Davis who has become healthy and dominant inside, they still had to go through the dams to join the play- offs, before playing the ogres at the expense of the tender Grizzlies and eliminating the defending champion Warriors.
Some saw them as favorites, strong in their experience, their renewed thirst for victory and the weight of history too, they who were 17 times champions, a record shared with the Celtics. But the fact is that they reached their gl ceiling against talented Nuggets, better armed collectively, with no apparent weak point and sure of their strength.
The World with AFP