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Lakers oust Warriors; Heat reach East finals

Adam Pantozzi/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE LOS ANGELES star LeBron James (left) plays defense against Stephen Curry of Golden State during the Western Conference semifinals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California on Friday.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Los Angeles Lakers ran defending champions Golden State out of the NBA playoffs in dominant style on Friday, beating the Warriors 122-101 to advance to the Western Conference finals.

LeBron James delivered a masterful 30-point performance as the Lakers won the semi-final series four games to two and booked a clash with Nikola Jokic and the top-seeded Denver Nuggets for a place in the NBA Finals.

“It’s going to be a great series,” James told broadcaster ESPN. “They’ve been the number one seed in the West all season long. We give them a lot of respect.”

That series tips off on Tuesday. A day later, the Miami Heat will open in the Eastern Conference finals against either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Boston Celtics.

The Heat advanced Friday with a hard-fought 96-92 victory over the New York Knicks to win their Eastern Conference semi-final four games to two.

The Celtics will host Philadelphia in a decisive game seven on Sunday.

In Los Angeles, the Lakers led wire-to-wire, with James adding nine rebounds and nine assists as the Lakers closed out the Warriors in their second attempt after dropping game five in San Francisco.

Anthony Davis scored 17 points and pulled down 20 rebounds for Los Angeles and Austin Reaves scored 23 points — including a half-court shot at the halftime buzzer that put the Lakers up 56-46 at the break.

Since clawing their way into the play-in tournament, the Lakers have won seven straight home games.

Their victory marked the first time that the current Warriors dynasty led by Stephen Curry and coached by Steve Kerr has lost a Western Conference playoff series.

The Warriors had reached the NBA Finals in six of the last eight seasons, winning four titles, missing the post-season in 2020 and 2021.

Curry scored 32 points but made just four of his 10 three-point shots.

Sharpshooter Klay Thompson made just two of his 12 three-point attempts.

Things weren’t so clear cut in Miami, where Jimmy Butler scored 24 points and Bam Adebayo added 23 to lead the Heat to a narrow victory that put them into the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in four years.

They’re the first eighth-seeded team to reach the conference finals since the 1999 Knicks, dispatching the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round before battling past the Knicks in a series epitomized by the hard-fought game six.

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