Lakers advance to Western finals with 119-96 win over Houston Rockets

For the first time in a decade, the Los Angeles Lakers are returning to the NBA's Western Conference Finals.

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Sunday, September 13, 2020
LeBron James drives to the basket during Game 5 of the Lakers-Rockets playoff series Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Lakers are going to the conference finals for the first time in a decade, ending the longest drought in franchise history.

LeBron James is going there for the first time since 2018. For him, that also qualifies as a drought.

James scored 29 points and the Lakers wrapped up their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2010 by topping the Houston Rockets 119-96 on Saturday night in Game 5 at Walt Disney World.

Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points, Markieff Morris had 16, Danny Green added 14 and Anthony Davis finished with 13 for the top-seeded Lakers.

Next they will play either the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers or third-seeded Denver Nuggets for the West title in a series that won't begin before Wednesday.

Clipper-Nuggets Game 6 is Sunday at 10 a.m.

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The Clippers currently lead 3-2, setting up the possibility for an historic all-Los Angeles Western Conference Finals. The two teams have never faced each other in a postseason, much less the conference finals.

James is going to the conference finals for the 11th time overall - six with Cleveland, four with Miami and now with the Lakers. It's his ninth time getting to this round in the last 10 seasons; the one miss in that stretch was last season, when his inaugural year with the Lakers fell apart because of injury and the team missed the playoffs.

James Harden scored 30 points, Jeff Green scored 13 and Russell Westbrook had 10 for Houston.

It was a rough end to a rough week for the Rockets.

Westbrook exchanged heated words with a fan in the family section during the fourth quarter; NBA security asked the man, identified by ESPN as a brother of Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, to leave the game.

Houston won Game 1 of the series and lost the next four. Saturday's finale came a day after Danuel House - who averaged 11.4 points in nine playoff games this season - was told to leave the bubble. An NBA investigation showed he had an unauthorized guest in his room for several hours earlier this week, and he missed the last three games of the series.

And now that the offseason is here, the speculation about coach Mike D'Antoni's future will ramp up. His contract with the Rockets is now complete, the sides couldn't agree on terms of any extension a year ago, and he's been mentioned as a candidate for the vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia.

The Lakers ran out to a 33-11 lead, though Houston came right back with a 17-2 run to get within seven. The Lakers' lead was 62-51 at the half after the Rockets turned 13 Los Angeles turnovers into 15 points, the biggest reason why Houston was still in the game to that point.

Houston got within seven on a drive by Westbrook 2:09 into the third, and that was the last real gasp of hope for the Rockets. The Lakers scored the next 15 points, and the lead was 95-69 going into the final quarter.

The Lakers last made the Western Conference Finals in the 2009-10 season when - led by Kobe Bryant - they beat the Phoenix Suns and then went on to become NBA champions with a 4-3 series victory over the Boston Celtics.

The team finished this 2019-20 shortened regular season 52-19, ending a six-year playoff drought which was the longest in franchise history.