The Lakers are the real Cinderella this season. The team that started the championship in the bottom of the standings, which was laughed at and pitied, flourished after a series of quality exchanges, and finally flourished, reaching the conference finals. And this transformation was so easy that even thoughts crept in: were they deliberately misleading the public in Los Angeles?
It turned out not. Even so, the ceiling of this team is the conference final, where the Californians could not get a single victory. True, all the matches turned out to be incredibly stubborn, and their fate was decided in the last minutes. And even the settings of the meetings were as similar as possible to each other.
win or exit
After losing three games in the series, the Lakers had no choice but to win before Game 4. In absolutely every game, LeBron James and his teammates fell one or two shots short of winning, so no one doubted that the Nuggets would be able to psychologically break the rival.
A symbolic coincidence occurred a few hours before kickoff, when the Lakers’ top star stepped onto the court for a pregame warmup. As LeBron did his shooting drills, a large group of NBA people gathered in the center of the room, discussing in detail Denver’s plan of action in case of victory.
LeBron James vs. Nikola Jokic
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Evolution of the game and new record for LeBron
In fact, a good warm-up with added motivation magically appeared on James, who made 7 of his first 9 shots in the first quarter. True, one of the shots was supposed to be a pass, but the pass to Rui Hachimura somehow miraculously ended up in the ring to enthusiastic cheers from the Lakers’ home arena.
The video can be viewed on the Chaz NBA YouTube channel. Video rights belong to NBA MEDIA VENTURES, LLC.
LeBron’s fantastic performance was reminiscent of his best years, when he could single-handedly beat Boston, Detroit or Toronto. At the end of the first quarter, the King had 21 points! This is the best figure in the last quarter century for all players in games in which they were threatened with relegation from the playoffs. Also, LeBron scored 31 points in the half. He never got that many. It’s hard to believe any time he’s 38, and most of the players since his 2003 draft have already retired.
In total, LeBron scored 40 points in the game! And that’s an NBA record. James became the oldest player to reach 40 in a playoff game. To them, he added 10 rebounds and 9 assists, staying one step away from a triple-double.
Great start for the Lakers
The hosts really played like it was the last game of their lives. The Lakers got off to a great start and immediately took the lead. Denver even had to call a timeout for the first half of the first quarter. But its effect was short-lived. The Californians again went on a run of 8:0 in two minutes and were keen to take the lead. Already in the course of the second quarter, the leadership of the violet-gold will become double digits. After an accurate three-point Schroeder, the difference will increase to “+11”.
But this will not break the guests. The Nuggets will only advance in the middle of the third quarter, when Caldwell-Pope bursts up the front, receives a pass from Jokic and scores from below the rim on a foul.
LeBron James on the attack
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Davis, Reeves, James, Hachimura, Russell went on the hunt, bringing the matter to the already traditional finale of this series. Down at -2, Anthony Davis equalized from the free throw line, but the incredible Nikola Jokic scored on the pass on the return attack.
True, the Lakers had time to respond. And here the ball was given to LeBron, who had to decide the fate of the episode, the game and the entire season. As a result, the fairy tale ended as quickly as it began. LeBron couldn’t find an open attack, got under the double wing and missed.
NBA – playoffs. End – West. 4th match
May 23, 2023, Tuesday. 00:30 UTC
los angeles lakers
Los Angeles Lakers: James – 40, Davis – 21, Reeves – 17, Schroeder – 13, Hatimura – 10, Russell – 4, Thompson – 4, Walker – 2, Bamba, Beasley, Brown, Vanderbilt, Gabriel, Christy, Harrison
Denver Nuggets: Jokic – 30, Murray – 25, Gordon – 22, Porter – 15, Caldwell-Pope – 13, Brown – 6, Green – 2, Bryant, Brown, Jackson, Jordan, Nnaji, Smith, Watson, Chanchar
The final score is 111:113. The Lakers are finishing their run to the playoffs, and Denver (it’s hard to believe) makes it to the Finals for the first time in their history! The club has won 93 play-off victories and has never advanced to a decisive series. This is also an anti-record, which finally went down in history. LeBron quickly made his way to the locker room, congratulating only Nikola Jokic on a well-deserved victory.
In a post-game press conference, the King will say something extensive about his future career: “I have something to think about… Personally, moving forward with basketball, there is always something to think about.” The loss was emotional for the Lakers leader, but was it really his last game in the NBA?
And that same rehearsal of the celebration was still necessary. The team received an award for winning the conference, and Nikola Jokic received an individual award. When the Serb was already heading to the locker room in the room under the stands, he met former Denver player … Timofey Mozgov.
The video is available on the Champion.Basket telegram channel. Video rights belong to NBA MEDIA VENTURES, LLC.
The Russian centre-back congratulated his colleague on his role, and the memories immediately sprung up in his head. It was from Denver that Mozgov went to Cleveland, where he helped LeBron win the first title for the Cavaliers. And it was the Lakers who gave Timofey $64 million over 4 years, giving him the financial status of an NBA star.