Nuggets sweep Lakers, launching Denver to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history

Nuggets Lakers Basketball
Ashley Landis/AP Photo
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the first half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Final series Monday, May 22, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Lebron James and the Lakers didn't make it easy for the Nuggets on Monday night.

Game 4 of the Western Conference finals was a back-and-forth affair — it started with a quick 4-11 jumpstart for LA, and the Nuggets trailed by 15 at halftime — and featured a fighting James, a tenacious Lakers that weren't willing to let go and a Nuggets team answering the call to history.

James set a personal record with 31 points in the first half, pushing LA to a 15-point lead at intermission, 73-58. The Nuggets wouldn't see their first lead until late in the third quarter.

But, in the end, the Joker trumped the King, as star Nikola Jokić led the Nuggets to a 113-111 victory and their first NBA Finals appearance in their 47 NBA seasons. James and the Lakers fought to the end, but the Nuggets high flying offense soared.

Jokic had a triple-double with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Series star Jamal Murray scored 25 points for the top-seeded Nuggets.

James finished with 40 points after the highest-scoring postseason half of his career, but even the top scorer in NBA history couldn’t keep the deep, dynamic Nuggets from their sixth consecutive victory overall.

James missed two tying shots in the final seconds, with Aaron Gordon appearing to block his shot at the buzzer.

Jokic earned his eighth triple-double of the playoffs by the third quarter, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967 NBA record for triple-doubles in a single postseason. The Serbian big man also led the Nuggets’ tenacious defensive effort despite picking up his fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter — and when Denver needed a big basket, Jokic delivered that as well.

The Lakers erased a seven-point deficit and tied it with five minutes to play, but Jokic hit a 25-foot fallaway 3-pointer. After Anthony Davis hit two free throws to tie it with 1:11 left, Jokic muscled his way past Davis for the tiebreaking layup.

James then badly missed a strange fallaway jumper with 26 seconds left. After Murray missed a turnaround to give the Lakers one last chance, James' drive at the buzzer was thwarted by Gordon, who scored 22 points.

The Nuggets will cap their superb season under coach Michael Malone by playing for their first NBA championship. Denver both eliminated the Lakers for the first time in eight playoff meetings and swept a playoff series for the first time, likely earning several days off before the finals.

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.

Greg Beacham/AP

This is a developing story and will be updated.