The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – Battered, bruised and exhausted, the L.A. Lakers took Saturday off.
They needed it, after slugging past the Denver Nuggets 119-92 on Friday night to win the Western Conference crown.
For the Lakers, it was their 10th game in the month of May, and it takes them to a familiar destination – the NBA Finals.
Now, they wait for the end of the Eastern series between Orlando and Cleveland.
Orlando leads Cleveland 3-2 and sought to clinch the Eastern Conference title Saturday night at home in Game 6.
The Lakers will open at home if Dwight Howard and Orlando win or at Cleveland if LeBron James and the Cavaliers prevail.
As for the Lakers, they’re in the NBA finals for a record 30th time. They’ve won 15 titles, but none since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal teamed for three in a row ending in 2002.
Last year’s championship series loss to Boston – including a humiliating 131-92 dismissal by Boston in Game 6 last year – still stings.
“We’re back to where we wanted to get to and we’re probably playing at the highest level that we have all year,” Luke Walton said.
It hasn’t been easy.
Critics have questioned the Lakers’ effort throughout the playoffs, especially when they were forced to a seventh game by undermanned Houston in the conference semifinals.
They have seemingly turned it on and off at times, getting thumped 120-101 in Game 4 at Denver before coming home and dominating the Nuggets in the fourth quarter of Game 5, then dissecting them with precision in the elimination game.
“It was important to step through that door, seize the opportunity,” veteran point guard Derek Fisher said. “Now is our time to finish what we didn’t finish last season.”
n Eastern Game 6, Page 3C