The Los Angeles Lakers took the defending champions Golden State out of the NBA Playoffs in dominant style on Friday, beating the Warriors 122-101 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
LeBron James put in a masterful 30-point game as the Lakers won the semi-final series four games to two and ordered a clash with Nikola Jokic and top seed Denver Nuggets for a spot in the NBA Finals.
“It’s going to be a great show,” James told ESPN. “They were the number one seed in the West all season long. We have a lot of respect for them.”
This series ends on Tuesday. A day later, the Miami Heat will open in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers or the Boston Celtics.
The Heat pushed forward on Friday with a tough 96–92 win over the New York Knicks to win the Eastern Conference Semifinals four games to two.
The Celtics will take on Philadelphia in a Game 7 decider on Sunday.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers were in the lead, and James added nine rebounds and nine assists as the Lakers shut out the Warriors on their second try after losing Game 5 in San Francisco.
“Few (members) of our team participated in the final matches,” said James. “So after Game 5 at Bay, I knew I had to be aggressive but be very efficient and very strategic in the way I played that game.”
Anthony Davis scored 17 points and grabbed 20 rebounds for Los Angeles, while Austin Reeves scored 23 points, including a half-court shot at half-time horn, to put the Lakers up 56–46 at half-time.
The Lakers have won seven home games in a row since making it to the play-in.
Their victory marked the first time that the current Warriors dynasty, led by Stephen Curry and coached by Steve Kerr, lost a Western Conference playoff series.
The Warriors have made the NBA Finals in six of the last eight seasons, winning four titles while missing the post-season in 2020 and 2021.
Curry scored 32 points but only made four of 10 three-pointers.
Shooter Clay Thompson made only two of his twelve three-point attempts.
“(We) were just trying to make it harder for them,” Davis said of the Lakers’ defensive strategy against the Warriors’ high-scoring offense. “They are the defending champions, they are not going to leave. Their ability to hit the ball, to throw the ball is unreal, unparalleled.
“We just wanted to keep the pressure, the intensity and be the toughest team for 48 minutes.”
Things weren’t so clear in Miami, where Jimmy Butler scored 24 points and Bam Adebayo added 23 to lead the Heat to a narrow victory that took them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years.
They are the first eight-seeded team to reach the Conference Finals since the 1999 Knicks. They beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and then beat the Knicks in a series epitomized by a hard-fought Game 6.
“I love it,” Butler told ESPN. “That’s what we do best, and that’s getting those wins.
“We participated in such games all year long. We are ready for this and stay with them until the end,” said Butler.
The Heat endured another brilliant performance from Knicks defenseman Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 points but fell into a game-tying loss with 16.4 seconds left, with the Heat just two.
The Heat finally went up 92-86 with less than a minute to play when Miami guard Gabe Vincent was flagged for a flagrant foul after he elbowed Brunson in the face while they were battling for the ball in a game at close range.
Brunson converted both free throws and Josh Hart made a lay to put New York within two, but Brunson, under pressure from Butler and Max Strus, made the pass and Butler made two free throws to extend Miami’s lead again. .
Facing elimination, the Knicks proved strong and took a 31–24 lead after the first quarter.
Brunson scored 22 points in the first half, but by halftime the Heat had taken a 51-50 lead with the Knicks never regaining the lead.
Adebayo scored 17 points in the first half, his 11 points in the second quarter helped turn the tide.
He grabbed nine rebounds with two steals and a block, and his dunk put Miami up six with 1:05 to play.
Kyle Lowry added 11 points with nine assists and two steals for the Heat, who only made seven 3-pointers but were 23 of 25 from the free throw line.
Julius Randle added 15 points to the Knicks, who have not advanced to the Conference Finals since 2000.
© 2023 AFP