The Los Angeles Lakers are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
The Denver Nuggets threatened to pull off another remarkable comeback but it was LeBron James who slammed the door shut, dominating down the stretch to help the Lakers to a 117-107 game 5 win.
There were plenty of takeaways from the night, but the story starts and ends with LeBron, so let's not mess around.
The King returns to the Finals
After a one year hiatus, LeBron James is back in the NBA Finals.
At times criticised for not being at his absolute best throughout the conference finals, James went ballistic in this one, ensuring there would be no chance of another Nuggets fightback.
James poured in 38 points to go along with 16 rebounds and 10 assists - his 27th career playoff triple-double.
MORE: LeBron James' 10th trip to the Finals is a reminder of his all-time greatness
16 of the 38 points came in the fourth quarter, including nine straight in a 103 second stretch that extended the Lakers lead to 12 with 1:57 left in the game.
Struggling with his 3-point shot in the bubble, the final dagger came on a straightaway triple, his first of the night that capped the run. He could do no wrong.
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers) is now the only player in NBA History to average 25+ PPG in the postseason heading into the NBA Finals with three different teams. pic.twitter.com/cuq7OZwfra- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) September 27, 2020
It was another physically imposing performance from James that included 14-for-21 shooting from 2-point range and a 7-for-8 mark from the free-throw line. He was simply unstoppable.
Reaching 40 minutes for just the second time in the postseason, he and the Lakers will now get an opportunity to rest up and await their opponent from the east, as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat head for game 6.
Jamal Murray runs out of gas
No player has played more minutes than Murray in the postseason.
Prior to game five Murray had played 753 playoff minutes, with his teammate Jokic coming in second at 693. You had to drop all the way to 646 to find an opposition player in Jayson Tatum.
LeBron James has currently played 565 minutes - 231 fewer.
We'd like more of this pls pic.twitter.com/DlWUrKCB4i- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) September 27, 2020
With the Nuggets first two playoff series extending to seven games, Murray has shouldered the load throughout and it appeared to take it's toll the longer this game went.
MORE: By The Numbers: Jamal Murray's historic postseason in five stats
Struggling with knee soreness, the explosive guard hobbled up and down the floor, lacking the ability to attack he has shown throughout the season resumption.
Remarkably, the 23-year-old guard still managed to see 43 minutes of court time but he finished with just 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting, well down on his playoff average of 26.9 points per game.
An incredible coming out party for Murray is over, but the Disney bubble appears to have unearthed a genuine superstar.
Foul trouble haunts Nuggets
If the Nuggets were to extend the series to a game 6, they needed monster games from both Murray and Jokic.
The one thing they absolutely couldn't afford was foul trouble and unfortunately Jokic found himself planted to the bench for extended periods in the first half.
Jokic was restricted to just 29 minutes in game 5, with the Nuggets posting a point differential of just -1 when the big man was on the floor. In a game they lost by ten points the 19 minutes he had to sit were critical.
The frustrating part for Nuggets fans will be the first of those fouls, where Jokic intentionally fouled to halt a fastbreak opportunity for the Lakers just 2:05 into the game. Jokic would then foul Green on a shot attempt with 6:11 left in the first and head to the bench.
It's not to say that Denver would have won if Jokic hadn't of made the decision to foul so early in the game on that transition play...but it certainly didn't help their chances.
Jokic finished the game with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 9-for-16 shooting from the floor.
AD's highlight reel swat
Anthony Davis was too much for the Nuggets to handle in the conference finals.
Davis led all scorers in the series to average 31.2 points on 54.3 percent shooting. While he did struggle shooting from three for the most part, he once again delivered in big moments in game 5, burying the go-ahead triple with a second left in the third quarter, before drilling another one in the midway point of the fourth that extended the Lakers lead to double-digits.
The highlight of the night for Davis came on the defensive end with this ridiculous block on Michael Porter Jr.
🤯🚫 AD REJECTION! 🚫🤯- NBA (@NBA) September 27, 2020
📺: TNT pic.twitter.com/n36c4RpziQ
Look at the slo-mo. Look at the extension. Ridiculous.
Davis will now set his sights on his first NBA Finals appearance and he is once again set to cause major headaches for either the Celtics or Heat when the series tips off later this week.
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