Ten years after winning their most recent title, the Los Angeles Lakers once again find themselves in the NBA Finals after defeating the Denver Nuggets in a hard-fought Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
After falling behind early in the first quarter, the Lakers picked it up on both ends and never looked back. Denver threatened on several occasions in the second half, but a huge fourth quarter from LeBorn James put them away.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were stifled by the Laker defense, and role players stepped up when called upon. It was a great team win and a sign that they are more than ready to take on whoever they play in the Finals.
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are currently battling out in the Eastern Conference Finals, with the latter up 3-2 in the series. It could be decided as soon as Sunday evening.
While it may be far from over, the Heat are the favorites to advance to the NBA Finals. According to Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers prefer to face the Heat over the Celtics, via “Inside The NBA“:
“They’re just going to sit back tonight, celebrate, and say, ‘We’re going to play Boston or Miami.’ But something tells me they want the Miami Heat.”
When pressed by host Ernie Johnson why he thought the Lakers want to face the Heat, O’Neal alluded to basing that off inside information:
“I’m not allowed to give you my sources, but they want the Miami Heat.”
O’Neal, who won three titles with the Lakers, is connected to the organization but his claim still needs to be taken with a grain of salt. No one from the Lakers has publicly said who they would like to see in the Finals, but O’Neal’s comments are sure to raise eyebrows given his ties to both franchises.
The immediate thought would be that James would like to stick it to his former team that seemed to harbor some hard feelings after he chose to leave for his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It is purely speculation, but something to note given how the two parties’ ended their partnership together.
Regardless, whoever makes it out of the Easter Conference will be a tough opponent, but a locked-in James has to give the Lakers an edge.
Job not finished for Lakers
Advancing to the NBA Finals is a major accomplishment for most franchises, but the Lakers have built their success on the back of championships.
After their Game 5 win, the team echoed words from Kobe Bryant’s infamous Game 2 postgame interview during the 2009 NBA Finals where he was asked why he was not happy up 2-0 in the Finals. True to his nature as a competitor, Bryant simply said, “Job’s not finished.”
Eleven years later and L.A. must win four more games before the job is again complete.
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