Nuggets advance to first NBA Finals after sweeping Lakers; Jokić named WCF MVP

Nuggets advance to first NBA Finals after sweeping Lakers;  Jokić named WCF MVP

The Denver Nuggets will advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals on Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Nikola Jokic recorded his eighth triple-double of these playoffs for Denver in the 113-111 victory (30 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists), passing Wilt Chamberlain for most in a single postseason. He was named the series MVP.
  • LeBron James had 31 points in the first half — a playoff career high for a half — and 40 overall. James played every last second of the first half, helping Los Angeles take a 15-point halftime and full second half lead.
  • The Nuggets took their first lead of the game with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.
  • Denver will face the winner of the Heat-Celtics series, where Miami leads 3-0, in the final.

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

James had a world performance on Monday night…..and jokic matched. This is perhaps the clearest picture painted in terms of Joker’s greatness in this playoff series.

James shot a record against the Nuggets. He took the game by the throat. He scored 40. He came an assist short of a triple-double. He completely destroyed Denver’s defense…and yet Jokic was able to undo that.

How many over-20s could undo a classic LeBron game? jokic just did this. Is there any doubt that Jokic is currently the best player in the world? — Jones

Aaron Gordon helps secure Nuggets victory

The Nuggets don’t win this game without Aaron Gordon’s 22 big points. Not only that, he was the one who found the shot blocked on James during the game’s final possession. For the series, the Lakers lived with Gordon taking open jumpers.

Monday night was the first time Gordon had made Los Angeles pay for that strategy, making three 3-pointers, each of them serving up big shots.

“I represent those shots every day,” Gordon said. “Those are the plans I work on all the time.” And in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, it was the shots that ultimately propelled the Nuggets to the NBA Finals. — Jones

LeBron empties the tank

James played all but five seconds in Game 4, giving it his all at both ends even as he looked increasingly gassed. He dropped a career-high 31 points in the first half in a playoff half, helping LA to a 15-point halftime lead.

In the second half, James defended Jokić, firing two charges on consecutive possessions that took Jokić to five fouls midway through the fourth. He flipped on Jamal Murray admirably, grouping and containing him, for the most part.

James didn’t have the brilliance to look closely at the Lakers’ last two offensive possessions – as he had already left it all on the floor. It was a superhuman performance, not to mention that of a 38-year-old man in his 20th grade. Chip

An interesting offseason awaits LA

The Lakers have several big decisions to make this offseason, starting with the free agencies of Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell.

Reaves has emerged as a legitimate third option on a team that made it to the Western Conference Finals – he’ll get the most out of the Lakers (projected four-year-old, $50.8m) and will certainly spark interest other suitors. Hachimura’s growth and value in the playoffs will also attract interest from other teams.

Russell, meanwhile, is on the opposite end of the spectrum after a conference final in which he scored a total of 25-for-10 points on 31 shooting over four games. It’s unclear what impact, if any, this will have on his free will, but his value has never been less than it is now.

Beyond those three names, Los Angeles has decisions with Jarred Vanderbilt, Dennis Schroder, Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba and Lonnie Walker IV. The most likely outcome is for the Lakers to return with the bulk of the group, but that could always change. — Chip

Climax of the game

Key stat

The Nuggets’ 46 seasons before reaching the Championship Series are the longest in NBA history and third in NBA, NHL and MLB – behind the Texas Rangers (49) and Washington Nationals (50), by ESPN Stats & Info.

Required reading

(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today)

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