Tue, 06 Jun 2023

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) collides with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) in the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Final series in Los Angeles, U.S., May 22, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Jokic led Denver Nuggets to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history on Monday, sweeping the Western Conference finals with a 113-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Star center Jokic was named the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the West Finals following his 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists.

Jamal Murray scored 25 points for the top-seeded Nuggets, who overcame LeBron James' 31-point first half and a 15-point halftime deficit with a tenacious finish in Game 4 to earn their first conference title in their 47 NBA seasons.

Jokic thanked the entire franchise for a team effort, "I'm really happy for the guys and for the organization and just how we fight through."

The bulky 28-year-old Serbian added, "I remember the days when nobody was in our (court) - you could hear the ball bounce on the floor and there was no fans."

Nikola Jokic (C) of the Denver Nuggets celebrates with teammates after receiving the MVP Trophy following Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, U.S., May 22, 2023. /CFP

After tying his playoff career high for points in a quarter in his record 282nd postseason game, James matched his career high for points in any first half - but the Nuggets responded with a 36-16 third quarter.

"Even when you guard him, he puts the ball behind his head Larry Bird style and shoots it 50 feet in the air and it goes in," James commented on Jokic. "Like he did four or five times this series."

Worrying news circulated around superstar James when ESPN reported he could be considering retirement after the defeat brought the curtain down on his 20th season. 

LeBron James looks on in the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Final series against the Denver Nuggets in Los Angeles, U.S., May 22, 2023. /CFP

James, 38, also fueled speculation about his future, saying he planned to take time to reflect on the next stage of his career. 

"I don't play for anything besides winning championships," said the forward. 

"I don't get a kick out of making a conference (Finals) appearance... We'll see what happens going forward. I've got a lot to think about to be honest."

Unless the Boston Celtics make basketball history by rallying from their 3-0 deficit in the East finals, Denver will host the eighth-seeded Miami Heat to open the NBA Finals, beginning June 1.

(With input from agencies)

Source: CGTN

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