Nikola Jokic, Nuggets Prove Their Playoff Bonafides With Lakers Sweep
They kept coming, these Denver Nuggets. When LeBron James made shots, when Anthony Davis blocked them, when every Tristan Thompson-sized button Darvin Ham pushed seemed destined to extend this series to a fifth game.
Pack it in, finish things off in Colorado?
Nah. The only thing the Nuggets wanted to take home was a trophy.
Denver is Finals-bound, completing a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 113–111 win on Monday.
The Nuggets trailed by six at the end of the first quarter, 15 at the half and LeBron James was cooking. From the bench, Michael Malone, an assistant for the Cavs during James’s years in Cleveland, recognized what he was seeing.
“Vintage LeBron,” said Malone. “He knew what time it was with their team.”
Malone knew what was wrong with his team, too. The Nuggets weren’t playing physical enough. “They didn’t feel us at all,” said Malone.
He looked at a stat sheet and saw the Lakers dominating in transition (8–2) and points in the paint (36–20), while Denver was losing the turnover battle (6–2).
Said Malone, “We just did not like who we were.”
In the third quarter, the Nuggets were something different. Denver blitzed LA 36–16 in the third, erasing the halftime deficit and taking a five-point lead into the fourth.
Nikola Jokić scored 13 of his 30 points in the quarter. He ripped down 10 rebounds. He got to the free throw line six times. He picked up three assists.
What a postseason it’s been for Jokić. Maligned for previous playoff failures, Jokić has dominated this one.
He collected his eighth triple-double on Monday, eclipsing Wilt Chamberlain’s decades-old record for most triple-doubles in a postseason. He knocked down an impossible, over the head three-pointer over James in the second quarter and heaved another one over the outstretched hands of Davis in the fourth