The Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 with a 117-107 victory over the Denver Nuggets Saturday evening to win the Western Conference finals, four games to one.
LeBron James scored 16 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter and had 16 rebounds and 10 assists, also both game highs, to assure himself of his ninth NBA Finals appearance in 10 seasons. Anthony Davis added 27 points.
Davis’ 3-point basket with one second left in the third quarter broke the game’s seventh and final tie and gave the Lakers an 87-84 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Lakers increased the lead to 102-92 with 6:13 to play, scoring seven consecutive points on Davis’ two free throws, a 10-foot fadeaway shot by James and Davis’ 3-point basket.
Nikola Jokic concluded a 7-1 Denver run with a 3-point play, cutting the deficit to 103-99 with 4:35 remaining.
James scored the final nine points in the ensuing 12-4 run that put the Lakers up 115-103 with 1:57 to play. They led by at least eight the rest of the game.
Jerami Grant and Jokic each led the Nuggets with 20 while Jamal Murray added 19.
The Lakers last trailed 10:20 before halftime. James then scored eight points and Markieff Morris made a 3-point basket during an 11-2 run that gave the Lakers a 44-36 lead with 7:33 left in the second quarter. The Lakers led by at least six for the rest of the first half.
Jokic, Denver’s 7-foot center, was on the bench for all but the first 32 seconds of the run after picking up his third foul.
The Lakers built a 61-51 halftime lead to a 72-56 advantage with 8:02 to play in the third quarter. The Nuggets tied the score, 84-84, with 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter with a 17-4 run over 4:19, with Grant scoring six points and Murray five.
The Lakers made 42 of 77 shots, 54.5%, including James making 15 of 25 and Davis eight of 16. Denver made 38 of 90 shots, 42.2%. The Lakers made nine of 24 3-point shots, 37.5%, the Nuggets eight of 30, 26.7%.
The Lakers made 24 of 29 free throws, 82.8% with Davis making nine of nine and James seven of eight. The Nuggets made 23 of 26, 88.5%.
The Lakers led in rebounds, 43-36.
Lakers reserve guard Alex Caruso had a game best plus-16 in 25:39, while the Lakers outscored Denver by 12 when James or Dwight Howard were on the court.
This will be the Lakers’ 32nd appearance in the NBA Finals, increasing their own record. The Boston Celtics are second, with 21.
The 10 seasons between NBA Finals appearances are the most in the team’s history. The previous high was nine between the loss to the Chicago Bulls in the 1991 Finals and victory over the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 Finals.
If the Miami Heat defeat Boston Sunday to win the Eastern Conference finals, the NBA Finals will begin Wednesday, a league spokesman told City News Service. If the Celtics force a seventh game, the Finals will begin Friday, the spokesman said.
The entire NBA postseason is being played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.