NBA: Nuggets oust Lakers, LeBron in thriller as Thunder seal sweep

AFP , Tuesday 30 Apr 2024

Jamal Murray nailed a last-gasp jump shot as the defending champion Denver Nuggets sent LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers crashing out of the NBA playoffs with a series-clinching 108-106 victory on Monday.

Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets celebrates after making a basket in the final seconds tom defeat the Los Angeles Lakers during game five of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Ball Arena on April 29, 2024, in Denver, Colorado. Photo: AP


Murray's sublime go-ahead bucket with four seconds remaining settled another pulsating battle between the Western Conference rivals and wrapped up a 4-1 series win for Denver, who now face Minnesota in the next round.

Murray finished with 32 points while team-mate Nikola Jokic had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists as the Lakers' bid to overturn a 3-0 series deficit came up short in front of 19,861 fans at Denver's Ball Arena.

NBA icon James meanwhile finished with 30 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to lead the Lakers scoring in what was the final act of his 21st season in the NBA.

Afterwards, James declined to be drawn on his future plans, saying he would now spend time with his family before preparing for this summer's Olympics.

Asked if Monday's defeat may have been his last game for the Lakers, James smiled and replied: "I'm not going to answer that."

Lakers defensive stalwart Anthony Davis, who appeared troubled by a shoulder injury for much of the game, had 17 points with 15 rebounds and four assists.

"They're a hell of a team," Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of Denver after the defeat.

"They're defending champs for a reason, I've been saying it the entire year, and the entire series, they know how to gut out wins, they've been there before."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone meanwhile lavished praise on game-winner Murray, who had also nailed a buzzer-beater in game two of the series.

"For Jamal to add to his playoff lore by having two game-winners in a series is just incredible," Malone said.

"The kid's a warrior man. I can't say enough good things about Jamal Murray. The bigger the moment, the kid just continues to shine."

Thunder roll, Celtics on brink

Elsewhere Monday, the Oklahoma City Thunder sealed a 4-0 series sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans to book their place in the NBA playoffs second round.

Western Conference top seeds Oklahoma City finally got the better of New Orleans with a late scoring burst in the fourth quarter to complete a 97-89 road victory in Louisiana.

The Pelicans led by five points with just over eight minutes remaining before Oklahoma City responded with an 18-2 run to close out victory in a hard-fought contest that saw the lead change hands 19 times.

Jalen Williams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder scoring with 24 points apiece while Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey each scored 14 and Luguentz Dort 11.

It was the Thunder's first playoff series win since 2016 and leaves them facing a Western Conference semi-final against either the Los Angeles Clippers or Dallas Mavericks.

"This was probably our hardest game," Williams said afterwards. "We weren't hitting shots but I think defensively we locked in down the stretch.

"We're all together through thick and thin, through the ups and downs of the season. We've hung in there together and now you see the result."

Elsewhere on Monday, Derrick White scored 38 points as the top-seeded Boston Celtics dominated Miami 102-88 on the road to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

After a 20-point win over Miami in game three Saturday, Boston picked up where they left off with another emphatic performance over last season's Eastern Conference champions.

White set the tone for Boston with an electric first-quarter display, rattling in 16 points in the opening frame -– including four three-pointers -– to help the Celtics take a 10-point lead heading into the second quarter.

Boston kept up the pressure to open up a 53-36 half-time advantage.

The Celtics stretched the lead to 28 points at one stage in the third quarter, and even though Miami rallied in the fourth, narrowing the deficit to 13 points with just over five minutes remaining, Boston's grip on the lead never looked in serious jeopardy.

The win means the Celtics can clinch their place in the second round, where they will face either Orlando or Cleveland, with a victory in game five Wednesday back in Boston.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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