The Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James had a chance to etch James’ name in the Greatest of all time (“GOAT”) conversation with another chip this season. The NBA and the corporate media are all about narratives. The NBA got what it wanted with a Lakers – Warriors playoff series, and the “LeBron v. Steph” narrative. After vanquishing the Warriors in six games, the Lakers faced an overlooked Denver Nuggets squad led by Nikola Jokic and a bunch of seemingly unknowns.
The Nuggets put the Lakers on notice, going up 3-0 in the series. The Lakers had a chance to win game one late, but blew a golden opportunity to make the Nuggets work to advance to the finals. Game four was must have and everyone suspected the Lakers would come out fighting. LeBron hung 21 points on the Nuggets in the first quarter and the Lakers carried a 15-point lead into the half.
The Shock Exchange turned his head for one minute and the Nuggets were right back in striking distance. After some heated moments down the stretch, the Nuggets closed out the Lakers in (Moses Malone voice) in “fo fo fo” to advance to their first NBA finals:
LeBron James tried everything he could, including scoring the most points in a playoff half in his storied career, yet it wasn’t enough to stop Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets from reaching their first-ever NBA Finals.
In a scintillating playoff duel with James, Jokic turned in yet another triple-double Monday night to help the Nuggets complete their first playoff sweep in franchise history with a 113-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 at Crypto.com Arena.
Jokic — who was named the Magic Johnson Western Conference finals MVP — fended off an incredible throwback performance from James, who scored 31 points in the first half before finishing with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in 48 minutes. James, 38, became the oldest player in NBA history to score 40 points in a playoff game.
LeBron finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, while Anthony Davis chipped in with 21 points and 14 boards. Jokic finished with a gaudy 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, followed by 25 points from Jamal Murray. The public and the media seem to have forgotten that two seasons ago the Nuggets lost to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. They were poised to be a championship contender until Murray got hurt, missing of last year.
The Nuggets have returned to their rightful place as the best team in the west and head to their first NBA finals in team history. The Shock Exchange is thinking about Alvin Adams, Paul Westphal, Larry Nance and Gar Heard – former Suns greats who helped define the franchise. If one is looking for narratives, it is how the Nuggets flew under the radar and quietly went about their business all year. Their depth was too much for a Lakers team too dependent up LeBron and Anthony Davis. “Depth” will likely be the narrative after the Miami Heat finally put an end to the Celtics’ lackluster effort.