LeBron James’ Lakers swept away by Denver, which reaches the first final in its history

This is a first for Denver. In nearly half a century of presence in the NBA (47 years) – the North American professional basketball league – the Nuggets had never managed to qualify for the finals. The Colorado team, which won Monday, May 22, on the floor of the Los Angeles Lakers (113-111), will now try to win a title.

With this fourth successive victory in the series which opposed them to the Californian franchise, the Serb Nikola Jokic and his teammates ensured their qualification.

And this despite LeBron James: the “King” did not want to abdicate and he did everything to allow the Lakers to obtain a reprieve. He delivered, Monday evening, one of the most successful matches of his already prodigious career, at 38, with 40 points scored including 31 points in the first period alone (with 11 successful shots out of 13), new personal best, established in two quarters in a post-season game.

Exhausted, he nevertheless failed at the buzzer to snatch the extension, causing the joy of his opponents in a Crypto.com Arena immediately silenced. Even actor Jack Nicholson, a long-time fan, had deserted the premises fearing perhaps that this decisive match would be the last of the season.

The Nuggets, who finished top of the Western Conference at the end of the regular season, were remarkable for their solidity and calm, even when the storm blew in the first period, which was fifteen points behind.

Recital by Nikola Jokic

But when they returned from the locker room, Michael Malone’s men came back much more conquering, like Nikola Jokic, author of 30 points and who made a triple double (with 14 rebounds and 13 assists).

The Lakers then showed, again, real weaknesses (14-36) during the third quarter, finding themselves trailing by five lengths at the start of the last twelve minutes (89-94). During this last period, Anthony Davis (21 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks), too quiet until then, finally showed his qualities, countering Jokic before dunking him. The Serb had just taken his fifth foul, but no Laker had the idea of ​​going to tickle him in the last two minutes of the game and it was he, 73 seconds from the end, who put the basket of the win, in strength.

The Denver Nuggets congratulate Nikola Jokic after lifting the NBA Western Conference Champions Trophy on May 22, 2023, in Los Angeles, USA.

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. And that’s what made the difference, because LeBron James was an exemplary leader but too lonely, and limited to 9 points in the last two quarters (10 rebounds, 9 assists).

“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 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 first. 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.

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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 Western Conference, at the heart of a chaotic season.

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone on May 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, USA.

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 play-offs to join the playoffs, before playing the ogres at the expense of the tender Grizzlies and eliminating the Warriors, defending champions.

Some saw them as favorites, strong in their experience, their renewed thirst for victory and the weight of history too, they who were seventeen times champions, a record shared with the Boston Celtics. But the fact is that they have reached their glass ceiling against talented Nuggets, better armed collectively, with no apparent weak point and sure of their strength.

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The World with AFP


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