The Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 with a 117-107 victory over the Denver Nuggets Saturday to win the Western Conference finals, four games to one.
LeBron James scored 16 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter and had 16 rebounds and 10 assists, also both game highs, to assure himself of his ninth NBA Finals appearance in 10 seasons.
Anthony Davis added 27 points.
Davis’ 3-point basket with one second left in the third quarter broke the game’s seventh and final tie and gave the Lakers an 87-84 lead.
— NBA (@NBA) September 27, 2020
The Lakers increased the lead to 102-92 with 6:13 to play, scoring seven points on Davis’ two free throws, a 10-foot fadeaway shot by James and Davis’ 3-point basket.
Nikola Jokic concluded a 7-1 Denver run with a 3-point play, cutting the deficit to 103-99 with 4:35 remaining.
James scored the final nine points in the ensuing 12-4 run that put the Lakers up 115-103 with 1:57 left. They led by at least eight the rest of the game.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed (in person) a guy take over the game the way he did in the fourth quarter,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 27, 2020
Jerami Grant and Jokic each led the Nuggets with 20 while Jamal Murray added 19.
The Lakers last trailed before halftime. James then scored eight points and Markieff Morris made a 3-pointer during an 11-2 run that gave the Lakers a 44-36 lead with 7:33 left in the second quarter.
The Lakers built a 61-51 halftime lead to a 72-56 advantage with 8:02 to play in the third quarter. The Nuggets tied the score, 84-84, with 11 seconds remaining in the third with a 17-4 run over four minutes.
The Lakers made 42 of 77 shots, 54.5%, including James making 15 of 25 and Davis eight of 16. They also made 24 of 29 free throws and led in rebounds, 43-36.
The Lakers earned a berth in the finals after setting aside the Houston Rockets. The Nuggets made it there after overcoming a 3-1 deficit to upset the Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers.
This will be the Lakers’ 32nd appearance in the NBA Finals, improving on their own record. The Boston Celtics are second, with 21.
The 10 seasons between NBA Finals appearances are the most in the team’s history. The previous high was nine between the loss to the Chicago Bulls in the 1991 Finals and victory over the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 Finals.
If the Miami Heat defeat Boston Sunday to win the Eastern Conference finals, the NBA Finals will begin Wednesday, a league spokesman said. If the Celtics force a seventh game, the Finals will begin Friday.
As the Lakers celebrated Saturday, James sat on the ground as confetti fell to the court of the AdventHealth Arena. He said he was “getting my breath back” while considering possible Finals opponents and his own career.
“Boston had a few moments in my head,” James said. “Miami had a few moments in my head as well. How challenging that’s going to be, whoever wins that series.
“Then I just started thinking about my journey as well. All that was just going through my mind as the confetti was on the floor, was coming down, landing on my shoulder and things of that nature.”
Teams played the entire NBA postseason at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Officials barred spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
– City News Service
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