Prepared to make history and wanting to do it quickly, the Denver Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers for their first NBA Finals berth.
Nikola Jokic led a second-half fightback as the Denver Nuggets completed a 4-0 Western Conference championship sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic finished with 30 points after the Nuggets overturned a 15-point half-time deficit to send LeBron James and the Lakers crashing out of the postseason with a 113-111 victory at the Crypto.com Arena.
James had looked to be single-handedly keeping the Lakers’ season alive after scoring 31 points in a magnificent first-half display that left the 17-time NBA champions leading 73-58 at half-time.
But Jokic led a resurgent Nuggets offense in the third quarter, scoring 13 points as the Western Conference top seeds outscored the Lakers 36-16 to turn the contest on its head.
A dramatic fourth-quarter finale saw Jokic put Denver 113-111 ahead with a typically barnstorming driving layup through heavy traffic with 51.7sec remaining.
With four seconds remaining James had one last chance to tie it up and force overtime, but his attempted driving floater was blocked by Denver’s Aaron Gordon to leave the Nuggets celebrating a famous win.
Denver — one of 11 teams in the league who have never won the NBA championship — will face either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics in the finals.
Miami, leading Boston 3-0, can clinch their place in the finals with a victory at home on Tuesday.
The Nuggets will head into the finals brimming with confidence that they can end their near-half-century wait for a maiden NBA crown after another composed all-round performance proved too much for the Lakers.
The 38-year-old James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists for the Lakers in a heroic attempt to keep the series alive.
But the Lakers’ supporting cast once again failed to step up when it mattered, with a series of missed baskets in the fourth quarter allowing the Nuggets to hold on to their slender advantage to clinch victory.
Banner image from NBA TV on Twitter.