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LeBron James gave everything in 40-point night, but Nuggets are clutch again, sweep series

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James tried.

In an extraordinary effort — even by his GOAT-like standards — LeBron came out and carried the Lakers from the opening tip, refusing to give up on a series where the Lakers were down 0-3. He was not going to go quietly into that offseason and scored 31 points before halftime — his highest-scoring half in the playoffs ever — on 11-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. At age 38 and in his 20th season, he carried and pushed teammates, some of whom came out with “I’ve already got a reservation in Cancun” energy.

Behind LeBron’s play, the Lakers started to show some fight and led 73-58 at the half, with an insane 156.5 offensive rating for the first 24 minutes.

Then came the second half.

Denver settled into their defense and started hitting their 3-pointers while the Lakers stumbled, starting 0-of-4 on shots in the restricted area, missing 3s, all of it fueling the Nuggets’ transition game. That 15-point halftime lead melted away quickly under a 23-6 Nuggets run, and Denver took the lead at 4:39 left in the third on an and-one from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

It was close the rest of the way, but as it has been all series the Nuggets made the clutch plays — Nikola Jokić hit the game-winning shot on a drive and awkward finish.

LeBron had a chance to tie as time expired but Jamal Murray tied up the ball as a help defender, preserving the 113-111 Nuggets’ win.

The Nuggets sweep the Lakers 4-0 and are headed to the franchise’s first NBA Finals, which will start June 1 (likely at home in Denver, unless Boston has a historic comeback out East).

The Lakers head into an offseason with some tough questions to answer, one where Austin Reaves will get paid by the team and they need to add a little more shot creation and shooting to the roster. (Kyrie Irving was sitting courtside for this game, if you track these kinds of things.)

Nikola Jokić had a triple-double of 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Jamal Murray added 25 points and Gordon had his best game of the series, finishing with 22 points.

LeBron finished with an epic 40 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He was the best player on the floor.

But there was not enough around him. Anthony Davis started slow but finished with 21 points on 6-of-15 shooting, plus 14 rebounds. Austin Reaves had 17.