It has become apparent that LeBron James is not afraid of any opponent, whether it be the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry or the still undefeated “Father Time” himself.
The 38-year-old James put on a show in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-101 victory in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Golden State Warriors to wrap up their series, 4-2. James set the tone early on for Los Angeles, scoring nine points in the first quarter as they built an early 17-point lead, 27-10, over the first seven minutes of the contest.
Golden State battled back and trimmed the lead down to four points, 37-33, early in the second quarter, but that turned out to be the high point of the evening for them. The Lakers responded strongly and reestablished a double digit lead for good after Austin Reaves hit a halfcourt shot to beat the first half buzzer.
Come the second half, it was all Los Angeles and their lead swelled to a high of 24 points in the fourth quarter.
James led the way for the Lakers with 30 points on 10-of-14 field goal shooting, nine rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and a block. Reaves chipped in with 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists while Anthony Davis added 17 points, 20 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
D’Angelo Russell and Lonnie Walker IV both had strong showings as well, contributing 19 and 13 points, respectively. However, the major difference maker for Los Angeles in the win was head coach Darvin Ham’s decision to move reserve guard Dennis Schroder into the starting line-up for defensive specialist Jarred Vanderbilt.
Schroder was ejected in the third quarter after receiving his second technical foul of the evening due to an altercation with the Warriors’ Draymond Green and finished with only three points and five assists, yet the fluidity and spacing that his presence provided the Lakers’ starting unit was essential to their first quarter blitz.
Los Angeles will now advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since their title run back in 2020. On James’ part, this will be his 12th Conference Finals berth over his 20-year NBA career. The NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer has gone 10-1 in his first 11 Conference Finals appearances, with the only loss coming at the hands of the Orlando Magic back in 2009, and he will be looking to extend his dominance against a familiar foe, the Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers beat this same Denver team in five games back in 2020, though they have matured a great deal since then. The Nuggets were still an upstart team in that season and have since matured into the Western Conference’s top seed this year. Davis will have his hands full with two-time NBA Most Valuable Nikola Jokic who is coming off a dominant series versus the Phoenix Suns.
This series is likely to be Los Angeles’ toughest one yet, but the veteran leadership of James should help them weather the turbulence up ahead. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see how Denver head coach Michael Malone will handle covering James and Davis given his team’s general lack of size in the frontcourt.
Regardless of the outcome of this upcoming series, the show that the elderlyJames has put on over these past few weeks has been one for the books and should further fuel his case as the greatest basketball player of all time. A Conference Finals appearance is no small feat, albeit this has never been enough for the title hungry James who has just trounced an old rival and now moves on to face a rising contender in a league that is still clearly under his longtime reign.