LeBron James has led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals for the 32nd time with an outstanding performance in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. For the superstar, the tenth participation in the finals is a personal milestone that should be particularly good. Here are the highlights of the game.
The joke that the Nuggets got the Lakers 1–3 back exactly where they wanted them was gratefully accepted. The “comeback kids” had finally made their experience with exactly this situation, shot two series in a row after 1-3. They shouldn’t be copied until they were on the team plane on the way back to Colorado, and even then, you couldn’t be completely sure.
It spoke of the respect Denver had earned this postseason. The Nuggets also fought sacrificially in this series and did not give up until the end of Game 5, as they had against Utah and the Clippers before. LeBron James didn’t feel like joking, nor did he want to give the resilient Nuggets team any space.
James knows how to approach a closeout game better than any other NBA player. “I just want to be as desperate as my opponent,” he said of his mentality after winning 16 of his last 17 games like this. So he took matters into his own hands (check out the LeBron highlights here!).
LeBron James is back in the finals
The 35-year-old had recently played a few weaker fourth quarters and raised the question of whether he was tired of games at the end. Already in game four he denied this with his crunchtime defense against Jamal Murray, but once again he saved the best for the end. James scored 16 of his 38 points in the final quarter of game five, nipping the Nuggets’ comeback hopes more than once in the bud.
“That was just remarkable. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a player take a game so in the end,” enthused Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who as coach of the Indiana Pacers was already involved in such Notions involved, just as an opponent.
James has reached the finals in nine of the last ten years, only in 2019 did he watch the entire postseason either from his vacation home in Cabo or a shisha lounge, as he revealed after the game.
A small selection of absurd LeBron facts:
- Only three NBA teams (the Lakers, Celtics and Warriors) made it to the finals more often than James (10 times).
- James is now one of four NBA players (Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) who have reached the finals at least ten times.
- A 38-10 record in closeout games is the best record in the history of the playoffs (min. 25 games).
- Only LeBron reached the finals with five different coaches.
- LeBron took part in 13.5 percent of all finals series in history.
In addition: only LeBron led three different franchises into the finals, with completely different players and requirements. Robert Horry also reached the finals with three teams, but as an RPG player – James still has claims to the title of best player in the world. In any case, not many other actors could have replicated this game in this way.
James cleared Jerami Grant with a face-off ball for his first basket of the game, setting the tone for the Lakers. He was looking for cheap matchups, especially in the second quarter he kept attacking the basket himself, at the break at 16, 7 and 6 he was already on a triple-double course and had put the Lakers in pole position. And it got even better.
James had recently had some problems with his jumper, nothing of that to be seen in this game. In the last four minutes alone he hit stepbacks and turnaround jumpers, a threesome to 115: 103 just two minutes before the end put the lid on. Within two minutes, LeBron pulled the nuggets completely the tooth with 9 points. In addition, there was the usual brilliant playmaking and another strong performance in defense.
LeBron James: It’s not just east
“Game 5, closeout game, the game is on the brink, who took over? The best player on the court. And that’s exactly what you expect of him,” acknowledged Nuggets coach Mike Malone, who is in Cleveland worked with James as an assistant coach. “He’s one of the best players to have ever played this game.”
The latter has long been out of the question, but for James this renewed reaching of the finals should be a special satisfaction. He no longer has to listen to the fact that he can only dominate the lousy Eastern Conference, he is obviously not “washed” either.
The latter in particular was never a serious point of criticism anyway, but LeBron is not the first superstar to get extra motivation from every little tease. You can also be sure that he was neither impressed by Giannis’ MVP award nor by the (justified) hype surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s 2019 playoff run.
LeBron James had “anger in his stomach”
“I think he had a certain anger in his stomach all year round. Everyone has his doubts,” said Vogel. At least until the start of the next series, these should now fall silent. LeBron no longer dominates every game and has in Anthony Davis his “most equal” partner since the first season together with Dwyane Wade, but he remains the boss in the ring for the moment – and in the NBA.
“That’s what I came here for. I’m extremely proud to have taken the franchise back to where it belongs, in the battle for the title,” said James, who over the past decade has had far more highlights than the proud Lakers franchise . “For me personally, the job is not done yet.”
The Lakers Stars’ stats versus Denver
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