DENVER did not only defeat Los Angeles Tuesday. It also won the battle of histories.
Playing with a near-flawless endgame consistency, the Nuggets nudged out the Lakers in a pulsating 113-111 win decided only in the dying seconds of the game.
The 4-0 sweep was painful, yes, but the seventh-ranked Lakers couldn’t complain; they were up against the No. 1 team in the West that was insanely bannered by a giant named Nikola Jokic, who eats triple-doubles for breakfast.
Tuesday alone, Jokic amassed 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists for his eighth triple-double in the postseason, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 56-year-old record.
In yet another colossal performance, the 7-foot Jokic from Serbia almost endlessly dazzled the Crypton.com Arena crowd, playing as if he had a magic wand glued to his hands.
As in his past incredible efforts to fuel a 3-0 series lead for Denver, Jokic did his thing routinely again, as in business as usual.
He would rebound.
He would assist.
He would impossibly sink threes even when he was off-balanced.
And he would impatiently bulldoze his way to the hoops, the way he did when he smashed a triple-teaming Laker defense to lay in the winning shot that shattered a 111-all deadlock en route to Denver’s series clinching 113-111 victory for the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference crown.
With the win, Denver made history by reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since it joined the NBA in 1976 following the NBA-ABA (American Basketball Association) merger.
With the win, the Denver Nuggets, formerly known as the Denver Rockets, have finally lined themselves up for a crack at the crown. Like Denver, the five other winless teams are Phoenix, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers.
And with the win, the Nugget deflected the Lakers’ bid to rewrite history by becoming the first NBA team to erase a 3-0 deficit and emerge champions.
The Lakers appeared to succeed, waving a 15-point, 73-58 margin at the half.
But their guns fell ridiculously silent in a disastrous third quarter that saw the Nuggets grab a 94-89 lead, with LeBron James limited to just six points after firing 31 first-half points.
So overpowering were the Nuggets that they unloaded a blistering 36-16 blast in the Lakers’ third-quarter meltdown.
The Lakers never led again after that, with LeBron James’ game-extending drive thwarted by Jamal Murray and partially blocked by Aaron Gordon as time was expiring.
“We won not just because of one person but because of teamwork,” Jokic said.
The giant can crack a joke, too.
THAT’S IT Late is never late, especially when what you are about to do or say will warm the heart, lift the spirit. And so to Chot Reyes, my humble pat on his shoulders for having coached Gilas Pilipinas to a resounding success in recapturing the men’s basketball crown in the just-ended Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was not mere vindication for the often-bashed Chot, it was also—more importantly—a testament to his cunning as a master strategist, achieving the near-impossible amid formidable odds. He didn’t have the best lineup to begin with; several of his regulars begging off for personal reasons. And one of his mainstays, Calvin Oftana, was injured during practice and declared out of commission for the duration of the tournament. A snappy salute to you, Chot! You made the nation, led by amateur basketball boss Al Panlilio, proud. A million and one cheers to you, Chot!