Nikola Jokic, Nuggets sweep Lakers to reach first Finals

May 23, 2023 3:23 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Nikola Jokic compiled 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists.

As the visiting Denver Nuggets advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with a 113-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jokic, the NBA MVP in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, set a record for total triple-doubles in a single postseason with eight.

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He had been tied with Wilt Chamberlain, who had seven for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967.

Jamal Murray scored 25 points and Aaron Gordon added 22 for the Nuggets, who trailed by 15 points at halftime and weathered a 31-point first half from Lakers star LeBron James.

Denver swept the series after losing once in the first round to the Minnesota Timberwolves and twice in the second round to the Phoenix Suns.

The Western Conference’s top seed will now await the winner of the Eastern Conference finals, in which the Miami Heat have a 3-0 lead over the Boston Celtics.

There has never been a pair of conference-finals sweeps in NBA history.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for June 1 in Denver or Boston.

James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, cooling off from a 21-point first quarter when he was 7 of 9 from the field and 4 of 4 from 3-point range.

He played all but 4.3 seconds in the game while setting a playoff career high for points during any half.

James’ last-second shot attempt inside the paint to tie the game was blocked by Gordon.

Anthony Davis scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Los Angeles, while Austin Reaves had 17 points, Dennis Schroder added 13 and Rui Hachimura contributed 10.

The Nuggets opened the second half with a 9-2 run to pull within 75-67.

They got to within 79-78 with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter on a jumper from Murray and pulled in front 83-81 on a three-point play by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 4:39 remaining in the third.

Denver led 94-89 entering the final period, with Jokic already having recorded his triple-double.

The Lakers tied the game 102-102 on a putback dunk by Davis with 5:02 remaining.

However, Murray was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three foul shots, the Lakers had consecutive misses from 3-point range and Gordon’s dunk put Denver up 107-102 with 3:34 left.

Los Angeles came back again to tie the game 111-111 on a pair of Davis free throws with 1:13 remaining before Jokic put the Nuggets back on top 113-111 on a layup with 51.7 seconds remaining. Neither team scored again.