For the first time in 47 years of presence in the NBA, Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets will have the opportunity to win a title, after their impressive qualification in the final at the expense of the Lakers swept 4-0, despite a great LeBron James, Monday in play -offs.
The “King” did not want to abdicate and he did everything to obtain a reprieve in Los Angeles, achieving one of the most successful matches of his already prodigious career, at 38, with 31 of his 40 points scored in the first period alone. (at 11/13 on shots!), new personal best in a post-season match. Exhausted, he nevertheless failed at the buzzer to snatch the extension.
In fact, Denver, seeded N.1 in the West, was remarkable for its solidity and calm, even when the storm was blowing in the first period, finishing 15 lengths behind without ever having been ahead in the score.
Returning from the locker room, Michael Malone’s men, who never panicked, sure of their collective strength, were much more conquering, like Nikola Jokic, author of 13 of his 30 points and who finished in triple-double (14 rebounds, 13 assists), almost as usual.
And the Lakers take a big leap (36-14), to be behind by five lengths at the start of the last twelve minutes (94-89).
She was tight as possible. Anthony Davis (21 pts, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks), too quiet until then, finally pulled out his muscles, countering Jokic before dunking him. The Serb had just taken his fifth foul, but no Laker had the idea to tickle him in the last two minutes.
And it was he, 73 seconds from time, who put the winning basket in force, seconds after an unlikely award-winning rainbow shot, on one leg, above Davis. “Me out of balance? I’ve been out of balance all my life, so that’s normal for me,” he joked afterwards.
The Serb was obviously not alone, 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 James was an exemplary leader too lonely, limited to 9 points in the last two quarters (10 rebounds, 9 assists). Even Superman has to kneel down sometimes…
“He had an amazing game, we couldn’t stop him in the first half. Then we found a way to make him take harder shots. But he’s still one of the best players in history of this sport”, praised Jokic.
“A great collective effort”
“It’s a great effort from the whole team. We’re not giving up. They jumped on us at the start, they were better, more aggressive, they scored easily. is shown to the height. It was a collective work: there is not only one guy”, added the Serb.
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.
The challenge was too high for the Lakers, whose presence in the Conference Finals was unthinkable this winter when they stuttered their basketball and vegetated for a time in 13th place. Reinforced by a successful transfer window in February, carried by LeBron James and by Anthony Davis, again in good health and dominant inside, they still had to go through the play-offs to join the play-offs, before playing. the ogres at the expense of tender Grizzlies and eliminate the defending champion Warriors.
Some then saw them as favorites, strong in their experience, their renewed thirst for victory and the weight of history too – 17 times champions, a record shared with the Celtics. But they reached their glass ceiling against talented Nuggets, better armed collectively, with no apparent weak point.
Fear never flowed through the veins of Michael Malone’s players. They’ll have to stay icy in the Finals to finally put Denver on the NBA map.