- Los Angeles Lakers have been swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals
- The Nuggets won all the first four matches to earn their place in the 2023 NBA finals
- This is the first time in the franchise’s history that the Nuggets will play in the NBA finals
LeBron James, despite his incredible efforts and record-breaking performance, could not prevent Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets from reaching their first-ever NBA Finals. The Nuggets completed a historic playoff sweep against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4, winning 113-111 at Crypto.com Arena.
In a thrilling playoff showdown with James, Jokic delivered another triple-double, securing the Magic Johnson Western Conference finals MVP title. James, in a throwback display, scored 31 points in the first half and finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists.
James, at 38 years old, became the oldest player in NBA history to score 40 points in a playoff game. However, his attempt to force overtime with a drive to the basket was thwarted by Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon’s defensive efforts.
For the Nuggets, reaching the NBA Finals is a long-awaited achievement. It took them 46 seasons, the most in NBA history, to reach this stage. Their 93 playoff wins prior to this milestone were the most without a Finals appearance. With the exceptional performances of Murray and Jokic, considered one of the league’s most formidable duos, the dream of an NBA championship feels closer than ever.
Jokic continued to impress with his eighth triple-double of the postseason, setting an NBA playoff record. He contributed 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists in 45 minutes, including crucial baskets in the final minutes of the game.
Jokic’s triple-double streak began in the second round against Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Phoenix Suns, and he maintained his outstanding form to sweep James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers.
Despite a 3-0 series deficit, Jokic acknowledged his concerns about facing James and his ability to impact the game in various ways. James’ determination to avoid a playoff series sweep, something he experienced twice in the NBA Finals, was evident throughout the game.
The Lakers approached the game as a must-win, making lineup adjustments and building a significant lead in the first half. However, the Nuggets erased the Lakers’ advantage in the third quarter, going on a 34-14 run and entering the final quarter with a five-point lead.
The game remained tightly contested in the fourth quarter. Jokic faced foul trouble but remained in the game, responding to James’ scoring with a clutch fadeaway 3-pointer and later breaking the tie with a driving layup. Despite missed opportunities from both teams in the final seconds, the Nuggets’ defence denied James’ last attempt, sealing their Western Conference championship victory.
When asked about winning the Western Conference finals MVP, Jokic acknowledged the deserving candidacy of Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid for this year’s MVP, emphasizing Embiid’s dominance in the postseason.
This memorable matchup between Jokic and James will be remembered as the Nuggets celebrate their achievement, eagerly anticipating the NBA Finals and the possibility of securing their first-ever championship.