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NBA Road To The Finals – LeBron James And LA Lakers Suffer First-Round Exit

LeBron James during a match
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There has been plenty of box office action in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Young stars like Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have risen to the occasion when the stakes were the highest and there have also been some surprise exits for some title favourites.


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For the first time in his career, LeBron James was knocked out of the NBA Playoffs in the first round as the Los Angeles Lakers were beaten in 6 games by Chris Paul’s Phoenix Suns. The 2020 NBA Champions suffered multiple setbacks this year with both of their superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, suffering injuries that disrupted their regular season and relegated them to the play-in game. Davis and LeBron eventually returned in time for the postseason but neither player was at 100% fitness. The Lakers barely stumbled past Steph Curry’s Warriors in the play-in game before coming up short against a Phoenix team with the likes of Chris Paul, DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker.

On the other side of LA, Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers narrowly edged out the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic in a tense 7-game series. The Clippers battled after dropping the first two games at home and had enough firepower down the stretch to overcome the Mavericks despite a historic performance from Luka Doncic – who averaged 35 points and 10 rebounds across only his 2nd Playoff series.


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Elsewhere in the West, the Denver Nuggets took on the Portland Trailblazers in one of the most entertaining series of the first round. Damian Lillard did everything he could to take Portland to the promised land and produced one of the all-time great performances in game 5, which included 55 points, 10 assists and 12 three-pointers (an NBA playoff record). Unfortunately, Portland’s supporting cast offered very little help to Dame and the Denver Nuggets overpowered the Blazers to win the series in six games thanks to another superhuman effort from Nikola Jokic

Over in the East, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers both breezed past their first-round opponents – Boston and Washington – within five games, while the 2020 NBA finalists the Miami Heat were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks. Jimmy Buttler and Bam Adebayo failed to recreate their heroics for Miami from The Bubble and for the first time since 2007, both NBA finalists from the previous year have been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.


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The Philadelphia 76ers will take on the Atlanta Hawks – who went past the New York Knicks – while the Nets will take on the Bucks in the conference semi-finals. The Nets and their Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are heavy favourites to come out of the Eastern Conference and win the championship in 2021 in the absence of LeBron and the Lakers.


[Image Credit: NBA]