Denver Nuggets Sweep Lakers to Head to NBA Finals

LOS ANGELES — As the Denver Nuggets’ historic celebration began, LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers’ star forward, walked off his home court, his face expressionless.

On Monday night, the Nuggets stamped out the final gasps from the Lakers, who had kept their season alive for weeks after it was presumed finished. Even after the final buzzer, some of Denver’s players couldn’t believe the series was over and that they had actually done it.

The Nuggets are going to the N.B.A. finals for the first time in franchise history after completing a four-game sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference finals with a 113-111 win on Monday.

Denver will face the winner of the Eastern Conference finals, in which the Miami Heat have a 3-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics. Game 4 in the East is Tuesday in Miami.

The Nuggets rose to first in the West in December and never fell out of the top spot. In the playoffs, they beat the Timberwolves, 4-1, in the first round and the Phoenix Suns, 4-2, in the second round. Despite Denver’s dominance all season, oddsmakers did not favor it to win the championship. The Nuggets embraced that.

“We’re the underdogs,” guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We don’t get enough credit for what we do.” He continued: “Not being talked about a lot, we take that personal. We just use that energy, continue to prove everybody wrong.”

Even after the first two rounds, some thought the Lakers were dangerous enough to be the team that finally upended the Nuggets.

James had looked more fallible in this series than he had in the past. He went 0 for 10 from 3-point range in the first two games, made costly mistakes late in Game 1 and drew ridicule for missing a dunk in Game 2. He had dragged the team through Davis’s postseason inconsistency so far, but the Nuggets wouldn’t let him do it again.

A few hours before Monday’s game, James was going through his pregame warm-up when a group of broadcast workers staged a rehearsal for the Western Conference championship trophy presentation on the court a few yards away. James said he used that as motivation.

He scored 31 points in the first half, making all four of his first-quarter 3-point attempts.

“It was scary,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We know who LeBron is.”

James finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. On the game’s final play, James drove to the basket and tried to shoot a game-tying shot through a swarm of Nuggets. Murray was there, and as James gathered to shoot, Murray put both hands on the ball and didn’t let go.

“I knew I had to be there,” Murray said.

The clock expired and the Nuggets’ bench emptied in celebration.

“It’s almost like shock a little bit,” Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon said. “You’re just, like, unsure, like, are you sure we don’t have more time on the clock? Are you sure we don’t have another quarter to play or another game to play? It’s just another chance at them winning? Then it’s like: ‘Oh. No. We won.’”

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