After 47 seasons, the Denver Nuggets are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Nikola Jokic recorded 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists, Jamal Murray added 25 points, and the Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-111 to end the Western Conference finals in a sweep.
LeBron James played almost all 48 minutes, recording 40 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. The rest of the Lakers starters scored in double-digits, but no player scored more than 21 points.
Jokic was named the Magic Johnson Western Conference finals MVP. The 28-year-old averaged 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 11.8 assists over four games against the Lakers.
The 28-year-old also passed Wilt Chamberlain for most triple-doubles in a playoff run, recording his eighth on Monday and besting the seven Wilt registered during the 1967 postseason.
“I think he’s shown people nationally that what he’s doing is real,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said of Jokic, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. “The triple-doubles are real.
“Have you seen any stat-padding out there?”
The Nuggets trailed by 15 points at halftime but outscored L.A. 55-38 in the second half.
The Lakers made a last-second lineup change, elevating Dennis Schroder and Rui Hachimura into the starting five while benching D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt.
James called the Nuggets the best team he and Anthony Davis had faced in the postseason over the last four years, according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha.
“I got a lot to think about,” James added, according to Buha. “Just personally, with me moving forward with the game of basketball, I got a lot to think about.”
Denver’s wait for its first championship appearance is the third-longest in the history of the NBA, the NHL, and MLB, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Only the Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers took longer to make their championship debuts.
In 1976, the Nuggets played in the ABA Finals, losing to the New York Nets in the league’s final championship matchup before the ABA-NBA merger.
The Nuggets also swept a playoff opponent for the first time in franchise history.
Denver will face the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat in the Finals. The Heat hold a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals, with Game 4 set for Tuesday in Miami.
The NBA Finals begin June 1.
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