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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Nuggets Complete Sweep of Lakers, Secure First N.B.A. Finals Berth

LeBron James, star forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, walked off the floor as the Denver Nuggets started their historic celebration.

The Nuggets stomped away the Lakers’ last hopes Monday night after the team had kept its season alive for weeks despite many predictions that it was over. Some of Denver’s players still couldn’t believe the series was over and that they had won after the final buzzer.

With their 113-111 victory against the Lakers on Monday, the Nuggets swept the Western Conference finals for the first time in team history and advanced to the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat currently have a 3-0 series lead against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. Denver will play the series winner. On Tuesday, the East will play host to Game 4.

Nikola Jokic, centre for the Denver Nuggets, was selected the best player of the Western Conference Finals. As his teammates crowded around him on the court and rubbed his head, he smiled broadly. On Monday he scored 30 points, grabbed 14 boards, and dished out 13 assists.

The Nuggets’ victory on Monday was the culmination of years of hard work by the team’s key players, during which they learned to play together, dealt with tough injuries, and dealt with doubts about whether or not they could compete in the Western Conference. Jokic was named league MVP twice, although his teams never advanced beyond the conference semifinals.

The Nuggets ascended to the Western Conference’s top rank in December and stayed there ever since. They started the playoffs with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and continued that success with a 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Despite Denver’s consistent season-long domination, the team was not favoured to win the title by oddsmakers. As a team, the Nuggets loved it.

The Lakers’ personnel problems and injuries to James and Anthony Davis made them seem hopeless for a time. They were 2-10 to start the season. The Nuggets were establishing themselves as the best team in the Western Conference that month, while the Lakers were down in 13th.

After three games, the Thunder benched guard Russell Westbrook, who also had a rough time last year with the Lakers. Davis hurt his foot on December 16 while playing against the Nuggets and missed the next 20 games. James missed many games not long after Davis’s return due to a foot issue that, according to some of the specialists he visited, might need surgery.

However, alterations made by the February trade deadline were beneficial. They traded Westbrook and acquired supporting cast members including Jarred Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley from the Thunder. They acquired Rui Hachimura in a trade back in January.

Both the Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks and the Warriors’ Draymond Green accused James, 38, of being old and the Lakers of flopping for favourable decisions in the first two games. The Nuggets adopted a different tack, showing respect off the floor right up to the last buzzer.

James had seemed more human and vulnerable in this season than in previous ones. He missed all ten of his 3-point attempts in the first two games, committed crucial errors in the closing minutes of Game 1, and was mocked for failing to finish a slam attempt in Game 2. The Nuggets wouldn’t allow him drag the club through Davis’s inconsistent playoff play a second time.

James was going through his pregame routine on Monday when he saw a group of broadcasters setting up a mock presentation of the Western Conference championship trophy on the floor not too far away. James claimed he was inspired by it.

James scored 40 points and added 10 boards and 9 dimes to his stat line. James attempted a game-tying shot as time expired, driving to the rim under heavy defence from the Nuggets. As James lined up his shot, Murray grabbed the ball and wouldn’t let go.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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