Denver Nuggets have brushed aside Los Angeles Lakers to reach their first-ever NBA finals even as LeBron James tried his best to catapult his side to the decider. It was also Nuggets' first playoff sweep in franchise history as they took game four with a 113-111 scoreline at the Crypto.com Arena.
As the game started, James made 7 out of his first 9 shots, including one that was initially supposed to be a pass and dropped in from behind the 3-point arc. The 38-year-old accumulated 21 points at the end of the first quarter and tied for the most in a first quarter when facing elimination by any player in the last 25 years. He also had 31 points under his belt by half-time, the most by any during a playoff half in his career.
Meanwhile, Nuggets' Nikola Jokic overcame a strong performance from James to collect a record NBA playoff-record eighth triple-double of the postseason with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists within 45 minutes. However, the Nuggets would require Jokic's all triple-double.
Denver Nuggets' remarkable turnaround:
The Lakers also brought in D'Angelo Russell off the bench for the first time in the playoffs and took a 73-58 heading into the interval. Nevertheless, the Nuggets turned the tables by the 4:39 mark of the third quarter as Jokic got his tenth assist and notched his his sixth triple-double in his last eight games.
As a result, the Nuggets went on a 34-14 run to go five points ahead heading into the fourth quarter. When the fourth quarter began, Jokic picked up his fourth and fifth personal on the offensive end with over five minutes left. As James scored to reach 40 points, Jokic hit back with a fadeaway 3 with 2:50 still left.
With the game at a deadlock at 111, Jokic crafted a layup shot with 51 seconds remaining. When James got the possession back, he missed a fadeaway shot; however, Jamal Murray failed to seal the game, missing a shot inside the paint. The Lakers called a timeout with 4.0 seconds remaining. James tried to drive but was unable to make a jumper when Aaron Gordon stopped him, sending the Nuggets to their first-ever NBA Finals.
Denver Nuggets head coach praises the players' maturity:
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone heaped praise on the players for understanding the magnitude of the situation. especially for the way they played in the third quarter. He said, as quoted by ESPN.in:
"I think we understood what was at stake. You don't want to give a team like that [any chance]. That's LeBron James over there. The way we came out in the third quarter showed me that we have a maturity about us and an understanding of how we need to play at this stage."
It has taken the Nuggets 46 seasons to reach this stage, the most by a team before a finals appearance.
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