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Bill Plaschke: At long last, the franchise of Showtime, Magic and Kobe returns to the NBA Finals

By Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

Home sweet home.

After a decade spent wandering through a wasteland of turmoil and tragedy, basketball's marquee team has regained its familiar spot on the NBA's biggest stage.

Back to the house of the Big Dipper and Mr. Clutch, back to the address of Magic and Kareem, back to the digs of Kobe and Shaq.

At long last, the Lakers are back in the NBA Finals.

They charged there Saturday night with a 117-107 victory over the Denver Nuggets to win the Western Conference title in five games and end the longest Finals drought in franchise history.

This time they brought it back with the King and A.D., LeBron James putting up a triple-double with a brilliant closing sprint, Anthony Davis adding 27 points, and everyone breathing a sigh of relief.

 

As purple and gold confetti fell at AdventHealth Arena near Orlando, Florida, James sat on the court while his teammates calmly hugged and exhaustedly basked. They knew they were home. They know what comes next. It begins Wednesday.

"This is not where we're finished," Coach Frank Vogel said during the midcourt trophy ceremony that looked odd in a near-empty gym. "The job is not done."

This is the franchise's record 32nd appearance in the Finals, where they will have a chance to equal the Boston record with a 17th championship, and holy Bird, they might even play the Celtics!

Boston is locked in an Eastern Conference Finals battle with Miami, where the Heat leads three games to two with all of Los Angeles cheering for a comeback. It is understating the obvious that the historic purple-green clash would be beautiful. Even in the middle of Florida, the spirits surely will summon chants of, "Beat L.A." and visions of Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis. The Lakers and Celtics have met a record dozen times in the Finals, including in both teams' last trip there in 2010. The Lakers won that one in seven games, but have beaten them in only two other Finals.

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