Anthony Davis' game-winner for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Denver Nuggets was a "Mamba shot", head coach Frank Vogel said.

Davis delivered an incredible buzzer-beating three to lift the Lakers to a 105-103 victory over the Nuggets on Sunday as they moved into a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Vogel said the Lakers wanted to honour the late Kobe Bryant, the NBA great who died in a helicopter crash in January.

And the Lakers coach believes Davis' game-winner was the type of shot five-time NBA champion and former MVP Bryant would have produced.

"Well, we want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honour his memory," he told reporters.

"Obviously, there are certain games where we are going to feel it a little bit more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others.

"That's a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. To me, AD coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it's a Mamba shot."

While the Nuggets rallied in Game 2, Davis (31 points and nine rebounds) and LeBron James (26 points and 11 rebounds) led the Lakers to victory.

Vogel was full of praise for Davis and James as the Lakers close in on a first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

"I keep saying, he [Davis] is a big-time player. He really carried us through a stretch where we were struggling to score late in the third," Vogel said.

"The combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is just – if one of them is not going, the other one is. There was a little bit of that tonight.

"When they're both going at the same time, we're near impossible to stop. Those guys both carried each other throughout the game and obviously a big part of the win."

Game 3 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Tuesday.

Anthony Davis said he wanted the "big-time plays" after delivering the game-winner for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Denver Nuggets.

Davis hit an incredible buzzer-beating three as the Lakers edged the Nuggets 105-103 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

The star forward, who finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, said that was exactly why the Lakers recruited him in 2019.

"People talk about never being in this moment, pressure, am I ready for it? I want to take those shots," Davis told TNT.

"As part of a legacy I want those shots, I want the big-time plays."

He added: "This is what they brought me here for, make big-time plays."

The Nuggets, who trailed by 16 points in the third quarter, rallied before falling short at Walt Disney World Resort.

But Davis was full of praise for Denver, who became the first team in NBA history to come back from consecutive 3-1 series deficits to advance after stunning the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

"That's a hell of a team. They're going to keep fighting, they fought all the way to the last shot," he said.

"We know that's what they're going to do. They're a team that's proven it this entire playoff series, their entire playoff run so hats off to them.

"But we want to come here and do what we want to do."

Game 3 is on Tuesday.

Anthony Davis nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer as the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Denver Nuggets 105-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Trailing 103-102, Davis hit a last-gasp three to break Denver's hearts and give the Lakers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA playoff series in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.

The third-seeded Nuggets, who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals, were seconds away from levelling the matchup at Walt Disney World Resort.

Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic made a 10-foot shot with 20.8 seconds remaining as Denver moved ahead by a point against top seeds the Lakers.

Jamal Murray also produced some elite defending for the Nuggets, blocking Danny Green's jumper as the clock dropped to 2.2 seconds.

But with no timeouts and time expiring, Davis stepped up in a clutch moment, receiving an inbound pass from Rajon Rondo and putting the Lakers in control of their first Conference finals since going on to win their last championship in 2010.

Davis finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, while team-mate LeBron James posted 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Jokic had 30 points and nine assists and Murray put up 25 points for the shocked Nuggets, who had fought back from as many as 16 points down.

 

Lakers face Nuggets

The Lakers and Nuggets are back at it again in Game 3 on Tuesday.

LeBron James made his frustration clear over another MVP near-miss after helping the Los Angeles Lakers take a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference finals showdown with the Denver Nuggets.

Double-doubles from James and Anthony Davies inspired the top-seeded Lakers to a 126-114 victory in Game 1 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Speaking after the match, James made little attempt to hide his contempt for the MVP vote that saw Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo named the NBA's best player for a second consecutive season

"It p****** me off. That's my true answer," said four-time MVP James, who came in second behind Steve Nash in 2005-06, Kevin Durant in 2013-14 and James Harden in 2017-18.

"It p****** me off because out of 101 votes I got 16 first-placed votes. That's what pissed me off more than anything.

"I'm not saying that the winner wasn't worthy of the MVP but that p****** me off.

"I've finished second a lot in my career, either in a championship or now four times as an MVP.

"I never came into this league saying I wanted to be an MVP or a champion. I've always just said I want to get better and better every single day and those things will take care of themselves.

"There are some things out of my hands and some things you can't control. But it p****** me off."

Davis had no doubt his team-mate deserved greater recognition in the poll

"He deserves it," he said. "What he's been able to do for our team, the things he's been doing individually, on a consistent basis, night-in, night-out, just it's not even a question who deserves it."

James was keen to point out he was still happy with the bigger picture the Lakers have mapped out for themselves and ready to toast victory.

"I mean, I'm fine. Don't get it twisted," he added. "I'm perfectly fine. We're 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals. I'm absolutely fine.

"I'm absolutely great now. I'm going to go back to my room, drink some wine and sleep very well.

"I'm great. It's just the voting scale is a little weird to me sometimes."

The Los Angeles Lakers drew first blood against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, winning 126-114 on Friday.

Led by double-doubles from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the top-seeded Lakers claimed Game 1 of the NBA playoff series at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Davis posted 37 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes for the Lakers, while All-Star team-mate James had 15 points and 12 assists of his own.

The third-seeded Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

And they made a promising start, outscoring the Lakers 38-36 in the opening period but that is as good as it got for Jamal Murray's Nuggets.

The Lakers – back in the Conference finals for the first time since going on to win their last championship in 2010 – outscored the Nuggets 67-41 in the next two periods to move clear and take control of the contest behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray and Nikola Jokic, integral to Denver's first trip to the Conference finals since losing to the Lakers in 2009, both scored 21 points apiece.

Game 2 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Sunday.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to dig themselves out of a 0-2 hole when they meet the red-hot Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.

LeBron James dismissed talk about the Los Angeles Clippers following their NBA playoff exit as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar marvelled at upcoming opponents the Denver Nuggets.

A blockbuster all-Los Angeles Western Conference final was quashed by the rallying Nuggets, who overturned a 3-1 series deficit against the second-seeded Clippers to set up a Lakers clash.

Asked about not playing Kawhi Leonard's Clippers for a place in the NBA Finals, three-time champion James told reporters on Thursday: "I don't have a comment about it really.

"I was just sitting back and watching the game from a fan's perspective, seeing big shots be made, big plays being made, missed shots, things of that nature. I was also [watching] as a scout, scouting both teams at the same time."

A follow-up question centred on the Lakers and Clippers settling their battle for supremacy in Los Angeles but James replied: "What were we settling?"

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis added: "We aren't focused on any other team but the Lakers. That's kind of been us, our whole thing the entire season. We focused on our own team.

"Our focus isn't on the Clippers or the 'Battle of L.A.' It's more so what can we do to finish our season strong."

James and Davis were speaking on the eve of Game 1 between top seeds the Lakers and the Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

"Very resilient, very confident, very driven, very well-coached team," James said as he lauded the third-seeded Nuggets.

"It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ballclub. That's how we're going into this series: understanding what they're capable of, where they stand."

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both named in the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The All-NBA selections were announced as the playoffs hot up in Orlando, although the Lakers duo were the only remaining members of the First Team.

James and Davis were joined by James Harden, whose Houston Rockets they beat in the second round, along with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

MVP candidates James and Antetokounmpo were both unanimous votes.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and playoff nemesis Nikola Jokic headlined the Second Team. Jokic led the Nuggets past the Clippers on Tuesday to complete another remarkable series fightback.

Damian Lillard was also included after carrying the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, alongside veteran Chris Paul, who impressed following his trade from the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pascal Siakam - disappointing in the playoffs for defending champions the Toronto Raptors - made up the selection.

Meanwhile, in the Third Team, the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler are both still alive as Eastern Conference Finals opponents.

Russell Westbrook, part of the Paul trade, got recognition, too, and was joined by Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons, the latter ending the season injured.

Paul George staying out of foul trouble will be crucial to the Los Angeles Clippers' hopes of reaching the Western Conference Finals, says coach Doc Rivers.

The Clippers head into Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets in Orlando on Tuesday, with rivals the Los Angeles Lakers waiting if they can progress.

Rivers' team blew a 19-point lead in Orlando as the Nuggets forced a deciding Game 7 with a 111-98 victory on Sunday, with the Clippers having also given up a 16-point advantage in the previous contest.

The coach insists there is no secret to explain how the Clippers lost those leads and stressed the importance of his guards remaining out of foul trouble.

George, one of the NBA's premier defensive players, had four fouls in Games 4 and 5 and then five in Game 6, a contest that saw Patrick Beverley foul out in 18 minutes.

"PG can't get in foul trouble," Rivers said ahead of Game 7.

"I think he's been in foul trouble at least two, maybe three of the games, and at times he's not even guarding one of your key guys. We've just got to keep him on the floor.

"The foul trouble by our guards, they have been very hurtful in this series, and not just the last two games.

"We've got to keep our guards on the floor, because if we don't, we've got to go to lineups defensively that are not desirable."

Rivers is comforted to have two-time NBA champion Kawhi Leonard with him for such a big occasion after his heroics in the playoffs with the Toronto Raptors en route to winning last season's title.

"He's unshakable," said Rivers. "Kawhi, you can't guarantee he'll play well or not because he's human and all players are.

"But you know, the moment won't be too big. That's the one thing like with him, you just know that. So that's comforting to know that."

Discussing the two collapses against the Nuggets, Rivers said there was "no secret potion" to explain what happened on those occasions.

He added: "The two things that we didn't do, clearly defensively, they shot almost 60 per cent in the second half. The one thing that did stand out, they went to the free-throw line like on every play."

And Rivers is not planning an emotional pre-game speech to fire up his players before the pivotal matchup.

"I'm going to say 'let’s go win'," he said. "Rah-rah speeches are overrated - that's for the movies.

"They last about three minutes and then you come running out and you're fired up. And then three minutes later you've got to focus on playing basketball. So there’s no secret speech.

"The real thing is you've got to have them prepared, and preparation. That's what we’ll do, we'll get them doing what we've done to get the leads and we'll continue to do it.

"But there's nothing secret or magical. It is about playing basketball. Manning up, moving the ball and doing all of the things we can do."

Paul George is adamant the Los Angeles Clippers remain in the "driver seat" despite another alarming collapse against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals.

The Clippers blew a 19-point lead in Orlando as the Nuggets forced a deciding Game 7 with a 111-98 victory on Sunday.

It followed the Clippers giving up a 16-point lead in the previous contest, but George still fancies the team's chances of progressing to a Conference Finals series with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"It's positive," George said when asked about the mood among the roster.

"This group's staying together. We still in the driver seat. It's not a panic mode. We have a Game 7. I like our odds with our group. We put ourselves in this position and it's on us to get ourselves out of it.

"We know what we are up against. We have the utmost respect for them as opponents, but I like our chances. I like our odds. I like what we have. Again, it's on us to finish this out.

"We've just got to go back to the film and see what we are doing. I think that's the only question that needs to be answered is why aren't we matching them."

Team-mate Kawhi Leonard, who scored 25 points, said it was a case of the team going "cold" in a third quarter in which the Clippers shot four-for-20.

"We just went cold. We went cold in that third quarter. That's it. We kept getting to the paint, passing the ball, got a little stagnant and just couldn't make shots," Leonard said.

"Just got to leave it all out on the floor and make sure we are paying attention to detail and executing and communicating on the defensive end and that's all we can do, go out there and play hard and just make sure we know the game plan."

The Nuggets' charge came at a pivotal moment when Jamal Murray was left in pain when a layup was blocked by George, who nailed a three at the other end to put the Clippers into their biggest lead.

Nikola Jokic stepped up to the plate, finishing with 34 points including draining four of his six three-point attempts.

"It hurt, it hurt a lot," Murray said of the incident with George. "I was going to come out but not in Game 6, not in an elimination game. Not when my team needed me, and they had my back.

"Everybody's talking about me, but I didn't do nothing. Everybody came in and did their job and more."

On Jokic's performance, Murray added: "He's hitting one-leg step-backs, fading away off one leg with a hand in his face consecutive times, so I'd say he's the best player in the world.

"It was a team effort, but Joker definitely carried us throughout the game."

Mike D'Antoni will not return to coach the Houston Rockets next season, the veteran announced on Sunday.

D'Antoni's contract expired after the Rockets were eliminated from the NBA playoffs following a 4-1 Western Conference semi-final series defeat to top seeds the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

The 69-year-old, who has already been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers' coaching vacancy, oversaw a 217-101 regular-season record in four campaigns in Houston, where the Rockets reached the Conference finals once and enjoyed three trips to the semi-finals.

"It's with tremendous sadness and gratitude that my wife Laurel and I announce that our incredible journey in Houston has ended for now and that we'll be moving to a new chapter," a statement from D'Antoni read.

"Our time here was among the most memorable experiences of our lives. From the dear friends we've made, the incredible partnerships with civic minded-leaders and city officials, to the wonderful non-profits and the clients they serve. Laurel and I will be forever indebted to this community for embracing our family.

"Most of all, I can't thank enough the entire Fertitta family, Daryl Morey, the staff, and the incredible and dedicated players I've been privileged to coach. The Rockets are a historic NBA franchise with fantastic fans and we've been proud to join with you to play a part in some of the successes here in Houston.

"From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for making us feel like true Houstonians. For that, we will always be truly grateful."

Rockets owner Tilman Feritta added: "I would like to thank Mike D'Antoni and his wife, Laurel, for their incredible contributions to the Houston Rockets organisation and the Houston community.

"Mike is a true professional and an amazing basketball mind. He is a winner, and we have been blessed to have such an outstanding coach and leader to work with the past four seasons."

The Denver Nuggets produced another remarkable recovery to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 111-98 on Sunday and secure a Game 7 in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Denver, who came from 3-1 down to beat the Utah Jazz in seven games in the previous round, had overturned a 16-point deficit against the Clippers in Game 5 to keep their seemingly slim title hopes alive.

This time, the Clippers – looking to reach a mouth-watering match-up against rivals the Lakers – were up by as many as 19 points at one stage in the third.

But the Nuggets never gave up and their star duo of Nikola Jokic (34 points and 14 rebounds) and Jamal Murray (21 points) inspired a second straight stunning win.

The game looked to have moved away from Denver at the end of a damaging first half in which they had 10 turnovers, a 10-0 run led by Paul George (33 points) and Kawhi Leonard (25 points) putting the Clippers in control.

Things went from bad to worse for the Nuggets early in the third when Murray went down with a knock to his groin as George blocked, and Leonard and his team stretched into a game-high lead.

But Murray bravely battled on and a 17-0 run took his team to within one with three minutes left in the third.

The momentum then swung entirely in the final period, with the Clippers shellshocked as Patrick Beverley fouled out and Denver seized the initiative, keeping the Lakers waiting with a flurry of late scores.

Game 7 is on Tuesday.

Russell Westbrook addressed getting into a shouting match with the brother of Rajon Rondo, saying people watching inside the bubble for the NBA playoffs are "supposed to shut your mouth and watch the game".

Westbrook's Rockets were knocked out of the Western Conference semi-finals in Orlando on Saturday after falling to a heavy 119-96 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5.

There was a flashpoint in the fourth quarter when Westbrook reacted to a comment from William Rondo, whose sibling later said he had called the Rockets star "trash".

"People at the game, you're supposed to shut your mouth and watch the game," Westbrook told reporters.

"That's the rules, especially when you have families and people here. Apparently, I guess because [Rajon] Rondo was talking s***, [William] decided he wanted to hop in, too.

"But it's okay. I mean, it's all good, I get it. He wanted to take up for his brother. But those rules stand for everybody, though, no matter who it is – family, whatever.

"He started talking crazy. I don't play that game."

James Harden said the situation was disappointing and added: "It affected us."

Guests inside the NBA bubble have been warned not to be verbally aggressive or enter the floor.

The incident saw William Rondo led away by security, but Rajon hopes his brother is not punished too heavily.

"He didn't do anything crazy," he said. "He called the man 'trash'. Fans do what fans do. He's my brother first. He didn't do anything disrespectful."

The defeat for the Rockets is sure to see speculation about the future of head coach Mike D'Antoni, whose contract is now expired, crank up.

D'Antoni has been linked with positions at the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers but hinted his desire is to remain in Houston.

"We've got a great organisation, great city, great fans, team's great," he said.

"I mean, everything's good here. We'll see what happens, but I couldn't ask for a better situation. I had four years and hopefully it keeps going. You just never know."

The Los Angeles Lakers cruised past the Houston Rockets 119-96 to advance to the Western Conference Finals on Saturday.

LeBron James (29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) led the way at the Walt Disney World Resort as the Lakers reached the conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2010 thanks to a 4-1 series win.

James joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in history to record 250-plus points, 100-plus rebounds and 80-plus assists in the first 10 games of a playoffs.

Anthony Davis posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds in a Game 5 during which the Lakers never trailed.

A 35-20 first quarter set up the Lakers' win as they moved through to face either the Los Angeles Clippers or Denver Nuggets.

Rockets star James Harden managed 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but Russell Westbrook struggled.

Westbrook was four-of-13 from the field for just 10 points in 36 minutes.

 

Clippers face Nuggets

Leading the semi-final series 3-2, the Clippers can seal a meeting with the Lakers with a win over the Nuggets on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Lakers "elite" defense is the team's third superstar, according to head coach Frank Vogel.

Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-final series saw the Lakers seal a 110-100 victory over the Houston Rockets and move into a 3-1 lead.

They restricted the Rockets to 43.1 per cent shooting as a team, with All-Star guard James Harden 2-of-11 from the floor.

The Lakers missed out on free agent Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers last offseason, but Vogel feels their defense makes up for the absence of a third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Vogel said of his team's ability to get stops: "That's as powerful a weapon as there is in one of these playoff runs. It's as powerful as a superstar.

"If you have an elite defense, that can be your third star, so to speak.

"When you have the confidence that you can go four, five, six possessions where you're just squeezing the other team's offense, getting stops, and then with our ability to run the floor, with LeBron James being the quarterback of that action and being in attack mode, we have a strong belief in what we can accomplish as a group."

Harden still finished the game with 21 points by making 16 of his 20 free throw attempts, so Vogel acknowledged there is still room for improvement from the Lakers.

"We're happy with what we were doing on the defensive end," Vogel said. "It can always get better.

"Obviously, the fouls [can be cut down]. Plan A with guarding James Harden is don't put him on the free throw line and we gave him 20 free throw attempts. So, we've got to make sure we're doing a better job there, but overall, we're just trying to limit him and make him as uncomfortable as we can.

"He's seen every coverage there is in the world and he knows how to attack it. Like I said all along with this group and with him: We're not going to be comfortable because we know what he's capable of.

"So, we've just got to continue to watch film, get better, strengthen the plan each game that we play and hopefully get better in Game 5."

James contributed 16 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and two steals for the Lakers and explained how difficult it is for the team to defend against Harden.

"James is probably one of the best offensive players that we've ever seen in this league," the Lakers star said.

"I mean, he had 20 free throw attempts and we're trying to not put him to the free throw line. One of our game plans is to not put him to the free throw line and we're trying to not put him to the free throw line, and the guy is just so clever that he was still able to get 20 free throw attempts.

"We're just trying to eliminate anything that we can from him, because he can score from [anywhere]. He gets into the paint with his runners, with his floaters. Obviously, he's got the step-back. He's got the threes in transition. He has his catch-and-shoot threes when he's off the ball. And, like I said, he's very tricky with his moves in the paint, where he gets to the free throw line.

"So we're just trying to take away some things. We can't take away everything, because that's how great he is offensively. We try to follow the game plan and see what happens from there."

Anthony Davis and LeBron James starred as the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Houston Rockets 110-100 for a commanding lead in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Davis posted a double-double and James finished one assist shy of a triple-double to help the top-seeded Lakers move 3-1 clear in the NBA playoffs.

All-Star Davis put up 29 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4 at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday, while James recorded 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

The Lakers led by as many as 23 points midway through the fourth quarter and looked on track for a blowout victory before the Rockets rallied.

Houston – who overcame a 3-1 deficit in the second round of the 2015 playoffs – put together a 18-2 run to close within 103-96 but the Lakers managed to hold in in Orlando, Florida.

Russell Westbrook led the Rockets with 25 points, and All-Star team-mate James Harden contributed 21 of his own.

Game 5 between the Lakers and Rockets is on Saturday.

 

Celtics face Raptors

It is a winner-takes-all showdown on Friday as the Boston Celtics and defending champions Toronto Raptors meet in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series.

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