Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant scored 35 points against the Denver Nuggets to lead his team to this year's NBA Final. Los Angeles will meet the winner of the Eastern Conference finals series between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers.
REUTERS - Kobe Bryant scored 35 points to guide the Los Angeles Lakers back to the NBA Finals with a 119-92 rout of the Denver Nuggets on Friday, as the visitors closed out their Western Conference series in style.
Bryant added 10 assists while team mates Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom had 20 points apiece in one of the most complete post-season outings for the Lakers, who triumphed 4-2 in the best-of-seven series.
“We had the effort and the execution to match (tonight),” Bryant told reporters after clinching his sixth career NBA Finals appearance and second straight.
“It’s been a physical march back to the finals. We’re back to the place where we didn’t finish our business last year.
“Hopefully we do it this year.”
Los Angeles, who were beaten by the Boston Celtics in last year’s title showdown, await the winner of the Eastern Conference finals series between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Denver’s Carmelo Anthony had a team-high 25 points while shooting just 6-for-17 from the field and J.R. Smith chipped in 24 points for the Nuggets, who struggled out of the gate and never recovered.
Los Angeles had difficulty closing out the Houston Rockets in the semi-finals but showed clear focus from the outset against Denver, while shooting 57 percent from the field and a perfect 24-for-24 from the free throw line en route to the blowout.
Bryant scored 11 points in the final 3:09 of the first half as Los Angeles took a 53-40 halftime lead and quickly pushed the advantage to 20 during the third quarter.
“We saved our best game for last,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We had the momentum almost from the beginning of the game.
“We played well - shooting the ball well from all spots on the floor, and I thought our energy was good.”
The Nuggets can look back at a strong season despite the defeat, the team bolstered by an early-season trade for point guard Chauncey Billups, who helped them tie an NBA franchise-best 54 regular season wins.
Denver’s trip to the conference finals also broke a string of five straight first-round playoff defeats.
“Today is a tough day but its been absolutely the best year I’ve been a part of,” Billups said.
“Being able to help this team turn the corner has been awesome. I never would’ve imagined it.”
The Lakers will be appearing in their 30th NBA Finals as a franchise and will try to make amends for last season’s failure, when they were outgunned 4-2 by a dominant Celtics.
Date created : 2009-05-30