The Los Angeles Lakers are on the cusp of the NBA Finals after holding off Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets 114-108 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

LeBron James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis led the top-seeded Lakers, who moved 3-1 ahead in the NBA playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday.

James put up 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a performance just shy of a triple-double, while Davis had a game-high 34 points.

There was a worrying moment in the fourth quarter when Davis rolled around in pain after landing on his ankle, but he continued.

Murray dazzled once again in Orlando, Florida, where the Nuggets star posted 32 points and eight rebounds – including a memorable Michael Jordan-esque drive to the basket.

But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – find themselves in a familiar position, down 3-1.

The Lakers' dominance off the boards proved decisive as the Nuggets failed to make a field goal during the last three minutes, 28 seconds – missing their final five attempts.

Now, the Lakers are one win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since winning their last championship in 2010.

Lakers veteran Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was limited to just 16 points.

 

Heat face Celtics

The Miami Heat can book their spot in the NBA Finals with victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday.

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray believes his team should be 2-1 up in their best-of-seven series with Los Angeles Lakers after a devastating Game 2 defeat.

Murray starred with 28 points, 12 assists and two late three-pointers to earn the Nuggets a 114-106 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in Florida.

That hard-fought victory came on the back of a buzzer-beating loss in Game 2, which saw Anthony Davis hit a last-gasp three-pointer to win it for the Lakers.

But having also showed real character to outlast the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semi-finals, Murray is determined to peg back the Lakers at 2-2 on Thursday.

"We had Game 2. I thought we played great in Game 2, we just had a couple of moments that really hurt us," he told reporters. "So we feel like we should be up 2-1 right now." 

"We have to move on to Game 4 now. In the Clippers series we dropped Game 3, so we have to take care of stuff that we can control. We've got to do that if we want to win."  

The Lakers entered the game on a six-game winning run and closed to within three points of Denver in the final quarter, only for their opponents to pull away.

"We're in this series," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the vital win.

"We let them know we're not going anywhere. That's what you guys have done this whole post-season.

"That's why everybody is rooting for us. Keep on showing that grit and resilience and playing for each other."

James led the Lakers with a 26th career triple-double, which included 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers star conceded the better team won on the day.

"We turned the ball over too much and we put them on the free-throw line," he said.

"I give credit where credit is due. They played better than us. They were more aggressive than us for three quarters."

LeBron James emphatically rejected talk he is inciting violence against police by speaking out against racial injustice in the United States.

Los Angeles Lakers star James has been a prominent voice in the fight for racial justice, which intensified following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota in May and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin last month.

Following the latter incident, James said: "We are scared as black people in America. Black men, black women, black kids, we are terrified. Because you don't know. You have no idea. You have no idea how that cop that day left the house."

The question of whether James was inciting violence was raised in the wake of the shooting of two police deputies in Compton on September 13.

However, James dismissed talk of him advocating violent actions in a media conference after the Lakers' 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

He said: "I've never in my 35 years ever condoned violence, never have, but I also know what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong and I grew up in the inner city in a black community.

"I've seen a lot of counts first hand of a lot of black people being racially profiled because of our colour.

"I've seen it my whole life, I'm not saying that all cops are bad because throughout high school and things of that nature I'm around them all the time and they're not all bad.

"When you see the videos that's going on, not only my hometown but all over America you continue to see the acts of violence towards my kind I can't do nothing but to speak about it and see the common denominator but not one time have I ever said let's act violent towards cops.

"I just said that what's going on in our community is not ok and we fear for our lives and it's something that we go on every single day as a black man, a black woman, a black kid, a black girl, we fear that moment where we're pulled over."

James referenced the case of a black man who was placed in handcuffs in June after neighbours alleged he was trespassing at a house in Wisconsin that he was renting.

"The police came in the house without a warrant, without anything and arrested the guy, a black man, because he was sitting out on the porch," James added. "And if you can't tell me that's not racial profiling then I don't know what the hell we're looking at.

"I do not condone violence towards anyone, police, black people, white people, anyone of colour, anyone not of colour because that's not going to ever make this world or America what we want it to be."

The Denver Nuggets outlasted an epic Los Angeles Lakers rally to claim Game 3 114-106 in the Western Conference finals.

After a heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss in Game 2, the Nuggets produced a trademark performance of resilience behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic double-doubles to reduce the Lakers' series lead to 2-1 in the NBA playoffs.

The Nuggets looked on track to cruise to victory in the third showdown, having taken a 93-75 lead through three quarters at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

But LeBron James – who tallied a triple-double – and the top-seeded Lakers reeled off a stunning 19-2 run and forced six successive turnovers to close within 101-98 with less than four minutes remaining on Tuesday.

Veteran guard Rajon Rondo was instrumental in the Lakers' fightback courtesy of three steals against the stuttering Nuggets.

But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – fended off the Lakers with a run of their own as Murray finished with 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

All-Star big man Jokic posted 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Jerami Grant had a playoff career-high 26 points to help the Nuggets avoid a 3-0 hole.

James led the Lakers with his 26th career triple-double, which included 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Anthony Davis – the last-gasp hero in Game 2 – had 27 points.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to level their series against the Miami Heat when they two teams meet in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone and center Nikola Jokic took heart from Sunday's 105-103 buzzer-beating defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, with the duo praising the team's spirit.

The Nuggets were heading into the final seconds of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with a slender lead, but Anthony Davis showed his class with the decisive action.

The Lakers forward sunk a three-pointer on the buzzer to seal the win and open up a 2-0 series lead in Florida, Los Angeles having won handsomely 126-114 in Game 1.

Davis was able to make his game-winning shot due to a defensive mix-up in the Nuggets ranks that saw both Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant guarding LeBron James when the former was initially on the game-winner.

Jokic put it down to poor communication, though there was a hint of rueful helplessness to his post-game comments as he suggested if Davis had not been decisive, James could have.

"[It was] either going to be him or LeBron [James to have the last shot], so we kind of knew it," Jokic said.

"It just happened, a little bit of miscommunication. I think I had a really good contest, to be honest. I think I was right there.

"As soon as he shot the ball, he shot it really well. Like, I kind of felt it going in. Great players make great shots."

But given his side were 70-54 down in the third quarter, Jokic – who had 30 points and nine assists – felt the Nuggets showed good spirit to get back into the contest.

"I mean, we are here [as] underdogs," he continued. "I mean, we need to fight. That's our only chance. They were up 15 or 16. I don't know how much they were up.

"We could just call it a game and quit. I think we just want to give the fight. Maybe it's going to be 30 points, but fight needs to be there, and effort."

Malone was similarly frustrated but seemed encouraged by the fact the top-seeded Lakers required a last-gasp attempt to take the win.

"Losing sucks, that's the bottom line, losing sucks," he admitted. 

"Some guys like to win, some guys hate to lose. I think we're a group of guys that hate to lose, whether it be by 20-something points in Game 1 or at the buzzer tonight, it counts as the same.

"The only thing you can talk about tonight is we were in the game. They had to rely on a great shot by a great player to beat us at the buzzer.

"But as long as we're putting ourselves in position to win games, that's all you can ask for. One thing I know about our group, even though we are disappointed, frustrated, angry, we'll use that motivation to come out and try to take Game 3."

LeBron James hailed Anthony Davis' belief and was glad his Los Angeles Lakers team-mate got his moment against the Denver Nuggets.

Davis hit an incredible buzzer-beating three as the top-seeded Lakers edged the Nuggets 105-103 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

The forward missed a similar shot in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in March, but he delivered in a big way against the Nuggets.

James said Davis' belief was key as the 27-year-old hit the biggest shot of his career in the NBA playoffs.

"It's not about making a shot. It's about having a belief of just taking it, for one, and living with the result," he told reporters.

"I think right back to our game right before COVID hit. We played Brooklyn at home and he had a similar shot right on that left wing in front of their bench to win the game and he missed it. He was down on himself, but at the end of the day, I told him, if you're open, and I was able to drive that particular game and find him wide open and he just missed it.

"But it's just the confidence to take the shot. You're not going to make them all, but the belief to just take it and live with the results is what it's all about.

"Tonight was his moment. Tonight was his moment to find a space, hunt the ball down and one of our top-10 assists leaders, [Rajon] Rondo, found him and he knocked it down. A big-time play."

Davis finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, while James posted a double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds.

After arriving from the New Orleans Pelicans last year, Davis has embraced the pressure for the Lakers and James said he would be the first to remind the seven-time All-Star of just how good he was.

"It's about the work that you put in and the belief in yourself. It's not about the doubters or the naysayers or the people who are going to try to talk to you and slander you and bring you down every single day. It's not about them because they have never been in the arena. They don't understand," James said.

"AD, he knows how special he is and when he doesn't, I'll be the first one to tell him how special he is. He wanted to be here. I'm happy he wanted to be here, because if he didn't, we wouldn't have a moment like tonight. That's what it's all about.

"You put that pressure on yourself when you don't really care what other people think, because what other people think doesn't really matter because they don't understand. Anybody can talk from outside, but if they got into the ring or they got into the arena, probably 10 times out of 10, they s*** their pants."

Anthony Davis nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer as the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Denver Nuggets 105-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Trailing 103-102, Davis hit a last-gasp three to break Denver's hearts and give the Lakers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA playoff series in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.

The third-seeded Nuggets, who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals, were seconds away from levelling the matchup at Walt Disney World Resort.

Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic made a 10-foot shot with 20.8 seconds remaining as Denver moved ahead by a point against top seeds the Lakers.

Jamal Murray also produced some elite defending for the Nuggets, blocking Danny Green's jumper as the clock dropped to 2.2 seconds.

But with no timeouts and time expiring, Davis stepped up in a clutch moment, receiving an inbound pass from Rajon Rondo and putting the Lakers in control of their first Conference finals since going on to win their last championship in 2010.

Davis finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, while team-mate LeBron James posted 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Jokic had 30 points and nine assists and Murray put up 25 points for the shocked Nuggets, who had fought back from as many as 16 points down.

 

Lakers face Nuggets

The Lakers and Nuggets are back at it again in Game 3 on Tuesday.

LeBron James made his frustration clear over another MVP near-miss after helping the Los Angeles Lakers take a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference finals showdown with the Denver Nuggets.

Double-doubles from James and Anthony Davies inspired the top-seeded Lakers to a 126-114 victory in Game 1 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Speaking after the match, James made little attempt to hide his contempt for the MVP vote that saw Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo named the NBA's best player for a second consecutive season

"It p****** me off. That's my true answer," said four-time MVP James, who came in second behind Steve Nash in 2005-06, Kevin Durant in 2013-14 and James Harden in 2017-18.

"It p****** me off because out of 101 votes I got 16 first-placed votes. That's what pissed me off more than anything.

"I'm not saying that the winner wasn't worthy of the MVP but that p****** me off.

"I've finished second a lot in my career, either in a championship or now four times as an MVP.

"I never came into this league saying I wanted to be an MVP or a champion. I've always just said I want to get better and better every single day and those things will take care of themselves.

"There are some things out of my hands and some things you can't control. But it p****** me off."

Davis had no doubt his team-mate deserved greater recognition in the poll

"He deserves it," he said. "What he's been able to do for our team, the things he's been doing individually, on a consistent basis, night-in, night-out, just it's not even a question who deserves it."

James was keen to point out he was still happy with the bigger picture the Lakers have mapped out for themselves and ready to toast victory.

"I mean, I'm fine. Don't get it twisted," he added. "I'm perfectly fine. We're 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals. I'm absolutely fine.

"I'm absolutely great now. I'm going to go back to my room, drink some wine and sleep very well.

"I'm great. It's just the voting scale is a little weird to me sometimes."

The Los Angeles Lakers drew first blood against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, winning 126-114 on Friday.

Led by double-doubles from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the top-seeded Lakers claimed Game 1 of the NBA playoff series at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Davis posted 37 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes for the Lakers, while All-Star team-mate James had 15 points and 12 assists of his own.

The third-seeded Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

And they made a promising start, outscoring the Lakers 38-36 in the opening period but that is as good as it got for Jamal Murray's Nuggets.

The Lakers – back in the Conference finals for the first time since going on to win their last championship in 2010 – outscored the Nuggets 67-41 in the next two periods to move clear and take control of the contest behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray and Nikola Jokic, integral to Denver's first trip to the Conference finals since losing to the Lakers in 2009, both scored 21 points apiece.

Game 2 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Sunday.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to dig themselves out of a 0-2 hole when they meet the red-hot Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.

LeBron James dismissed talk about the Los Angeles Clippers following their NBA playoff exit as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar marvelled at upcoming opponents the Denver Nuggets.

A blockbuster all-Los Angeles Western Conference final was quashed by the rallying Nuggets, who overturned a 3-1 series deficit against the second-seeded Clippers to set up a Lakers clash.

Asked about not playing Kawhi Leonard's Clippers for a place in the NBA Finals, three-time champion James told reporters on Thursday: "I don't have a comment about it really.

"I was just sitting back and watching the game from a fan's perspective, seeing big shots be made, big plays being made, missed shots, things of that nature. I was also [watching] as a scout, scouting both teams at the same time."

A follow-up question centred on the Lakers and Clippers settling their battle for supremacy in Los Angeles but James replied: "What were we settling?"

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis added: "We aren't focused on any other team but the Lakers. That's kind of been us, our whole thing the entire season. We focused on our own team.

"Our focus isn't on the Clippers or the 'Battle of L.A.' It's more so what can we do to finish our season strong."

James and Davis were speaking on the eve of Game 1 between top seeds the Lakers and the Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

"Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said as he lauded the third-seeded Nuggets.

"It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series: understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both named in the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The All-NBA selections were announced as the playoffs hot up in Orlando, although the Lakers duo were the only remaining members of the First Team.

James and Davis were joined by James Harden, whose Houston Rockets they beat in the second round, along with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

MVP candidates James and Antetokounmpo were both unanimous votes.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and playoff nemesis Nikola Jokic headlined the Second Team. Jokic led the Nuggets past the Clippers on Tuesday to complete another remarkable series fightback.

Damian Lillard was also included after carrying the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, alongside veteran Chris Paul, who impressed following his trade from the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pascal Siakam - disappointing in the playoffs for defending champions the Toronto Raptors - made up the selection.

Meanwhile, in the Third Team, the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler are both still alive as Eastern Conference Finals opponents.

Russell Westbrook, part of the Paul trade, got recognition, too, and was joined by Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons, the latter ending the season injured.

The Los Angeles Lakers cruised past the Houston Rockets 119-96 to advance to the Western Conference Finals on Saturday.

LeBron James (29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) led the way at the Walt Disney World Resort as the Lakers reached the conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2010 thanks to a 4-1 series win.

James joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in history to record 250-plus points, 100-plus rebounds and 80-plus assists in the first 10 games of a playoffs.

Anthony Davis posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds in a Game 5 during which the Lakers never trailed.

A 35-20 first quarter set up the Lakers' win as they moved through to face either the Los Angeles Clippers or Denver Nuggets.

Rockets star James Harden managed 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but Russell Westbrook struggled.

Westbrook was four-of-13 from the field for just 10 points in 36 minutes.

 

Clippers face Nuggets

Leading the semi-final series 3-2, the Clippers can seal a meeting with the Lakers with a win over the Nuggets on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Lakers "elite" defense is the team's third superstar, according to head coach Frank Vogel.

Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-final series saw the Lakers seal a 110-100 victory over the Houston Rockets and move into a 3-1 lead.

They restricted the Rockets to 43.1 per cent shooting as a team, with All-Star guard James Harden 2-of-11 from the floor.

The Lakers missed out on free agent Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers last offseason, but Vogel feels their defense makes up for the absence of a third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Vogel said of his team's ability to get stops: "That's as powerful a weapon as there is in one of these playoff runs. It's as powerful as a superstar.

"If you have an elite defense, that can be your third star, so to speak.

"When you have the confidence that you can go four, five, six possessions where you're just squeezing the other team's offense, getting stops, and then with our ability to run the floor, with LeBron James being the quarterback of that action and being in attack mode, we have a strong belief in what we can accomplish as a group."

Harden still finished the game with 21 points by making 16 of his 20 free throw attempts, so Vogel acknowledged there is still room for improvement from the Lakers.

"We're happy with what we were doing on the defensive end," Vogel said. "It can always get better.

"Obviously, the fouls [can be cut down]. Plan A with guarding James Harden is don't put him on the free throw line and we gave him 20 free throw attempts. So, we've got to make sure we're doing a better job there, but overall, we're just trying to limit him and make him as uncomfortable as we can.

"He's seen every coverage there is in the world and he knows how to attack it. Like I said all along with this group and with him: We're not going to be comfortable because we know what he's capable of.

"So, we've just got to continue to watch film, get better, strengthen the plan each game that we play and hopefully get better in Game 5."

James contributed 16 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and two steals for the Lakers and explained how difficult it is for the team to defend against Harden.

"James is probably one of the best offensive players that we've ever seen in this league," the Lakers star said.

"I mean, he had 20 free throw attempts and we're trying to not put him to the free throw line. One of our game plans is to not put him to the free throw line and we're trying to not put him to the free throw line, and the guy is just so clever that he was still able to get 20 free throw attempts.

"We're just trying to eliminate anything that we can from him, because he can score from [anywhere]. He gets into the paint with his runners, with his floaters. Obviously, he's got the step-back. He's got the threes in transition. He has his catch-and-shoot threes when he's off the ball. And, like I said, he's very tricky with his moves in the paint, where he gets to the free throw line.

"So we're just trying to take away some things. We can't take away everything, because that's how great he is offensively. We try to follow the game plan and see what happens from there."

Anthony Davis and LeBron James starred as the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Houston Rockets 110-100 for a commanding lead in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Davis posted a double-double and James finished one assist shy of a triple-double to help the top-seeded Lakers move 3-1 clear in the NBA playoffs.

All-Star Davis put up 29 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4 at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday, while James recorded 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

The Lakers led by as many as 23 points midway through the fourth quarter and looked on track for a blowout victory before the Rockets rallied.

Houston – who overcame a 3-1 deficit in the second round of the 2015 playoffs – put together a 18-2 run to close within 103-96 but the Lakers managed to hold in in Orlando, Florida.

Russell Westbrook led the Rockets with 25 points, and All-Star team-mate James Harden contributed 21 of his own.

Game 5 between the Lakers and Rockets is on Saturday.

 

Celtics face Raptors

It is a winner-takes-all showdown on Friday as the Boston Celtics and defending champions Toronto Raptors meet in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series.

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