Five minutes and 31 seconds remained in the game when LeBron James left the court to watch the rest of it from the bench.
His work, for now, was done.
Ten years after the last time they did it, the Lakers are headed to the Western Conference finals.
The Lakers beat the Rockets 119-96 on Saturday night, dominating a team that beat them in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series and challenged them at other points during it. James finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds while Kyle Kuzma was the Lakers’ second-leading scorer with 17 points, making five of nine shots and three three-pointers off the bench.
James Harden scored 30 points for the Rockets, making 12 of 20 shots two nights after making only two shots in Game 4. But he was the only Rockets player to score more than 13 points and the team as a whole made only 37.5% of their shots and 27% of their three-point attempts.
The Lakers meanwhile shot better than 50% from the field and from three-point range at Orlando, Fla. All five starters scored in double figures.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni thought his team lacked the spirit necessary to compete with the Lakers in their Game 4 loss. If the Rockets had any left for Game 5, possibly their final game of the season, the Lakers made sure to extinguish it.
At the start Saturday night, there appeared to be little the Rockets could do well. They allowed a three-pointer by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope immediately, and scored to counter. But then the Lakers scored 10 unanswered points while the Rockets missed multiple shots near the rim, giving the Lakers a 13-2 lead at the first break. The lead grew all the way to 22 in the first quarter before the Rockets began to chip into their deficit late in the first quarter.
That rally continued into the second quarter and became a 17-2 run that allowed the Rockets to get within seven of the Lakers. Even though Anthony Davis had barely made an impact, the Lakers led by 11 heading into the break.
After halftime it quickly became clear that the Rockets were outmatched. The Lakers led by as many as 30 points while the Rockets were taunted by Rajon Rondo’s brother in the stands.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Ganguli reported from Los Angeles.” data-reactid=”38″>Ganguli reported from Los Angeles.