Lakers, Heat reach conference finals with Game 6 wins
Six months and a day after the Los Angeles Lakers fell to a 2-10 to start the regular season, they emphatically eliminated the defending NBA champions to reach the Western Conference finals.
Although the Lakers' transformation has become increasingly incredible over the past several weeks, the primary forces behind it are LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The superstars won a ring together only three years ago, and they shared a joyous hug on Friday night after they led their team to their biggest home victory in over a decade.
The 38-year-old, four-time champion, James had 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists as LA ended Golden State's reign with a 122-101 victory in Game 6 of their second-round series.
"It was great to be able to play one of our most efficient games, one of our best games of the series, and it started because of the defensive matchup we had," James said.
Davis had 17 points and 20 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who never trailed in their third home victory over the Warriors in seven days. Austin Reaves scored 23 points — highlighted by a 54-footer from midcourt at the halftime buzzer — along with six assists and five rebounds.
"I think the seeding things are just numbers. When you have guys like Bron and AD who have won championships, you always feel like you have a chance, especially with the roster that we have, the talent that we have," Reaves said.
The Lakers will face Nikola Jokic and the top-seeded Nuggets in the Western Conference finals starting Tuesday night in Denver. It's a rematch of the conference finals in the 2020 Florida bubble, won in five games by Los Angeles.
While routing the Warriors one last time, the Lakers improved to 7-0 at home since the regular season ended. They also snapped Golden State's streak of 28 playoff series with at least one road victory – an NBA-record run encompassing Stephen Curry's entire career.
James, Davis and the Lakers are the first team since 2014 to eliminate Curry's Warriors from the playoffs before the NBA Finals. Golden State have played in six of the last eight NBA Finals, missing the playoffs entirely in the other two seasons.
Curry scored 32 points while missing 10 of his 14 three-point attempts for the sixth-seeded Warriors, whose pursuit of their fifth championship in nine seasons ended with three straight road losses.
"Definitely disappointing," Draymond Green said.
"It's been a long time since we finished in May, just trying to process the feelings. In the end, they were the better team."
Earlier in Miami, Jimmy Butler scored 24 points, Bam Adebayo added 23 and the Heat booked their place in the Eastern Conference finals after topping New York 96-92 in Game 6.
Max Strus registered 14 points and Kyle Lowry 11 points and nine assists for the hosts, who won their series 4-2 to reach the conference finals for the 10th time overall and third time in four years.
"It means we're one step closer to our goal," Butler said.
Miami became the second No.8 seed in NBA history to make the conference finals — joining the Knicks, who pulled it off in 1999. The Heat will visit Boston or Philadelphia in Game 1 on Wednesday. The Celtics and 76ers play Game 7 of their series on Sunday.