How the Lakers won the franchise’s 17th NBA title

Kyle Kuzma and his Lakers teammates celebrate winning the 2020 NBA championship.
Kyle Kuzma and his Lakers teammates celebrate winning the 2020 NBA championship.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A look at how the Lakers reached the NBA Finals and then won the franchise’s NBA-record-tying 17th title, including a timeline of the 2019-20 season:


First Round

Lakers 4, Portland 1


Surprise! Portland, seeded eighth, knocked off the top-seeded Lakers in Game 1 as Damian Lillard scored 34 points and the Lakers shot just 35.1%, including five for 32 (15.6%) from three-point range.

What was no surprise was what happened after that: The Lakers won four straight, led by Anthony Davis with 31 points in Game 2 and 43 in Game 5. LeBron James led the way with 38 points in Game 3 and 30 in Game 4.

About the only thing that threatened to halt the Lakers was a collective NBA strike after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. The strike began on the day Game 5 was scheduled. That night, James spoke up during a players meeting and was adamant about sitting out the rest of the playoffs. However, the players voted the following day to continue.

The four days between games weren’t enough to help Lillard, who suffered a sprained knee during Game 4 and missed the finale.

Western Conference semifinals

Lakers 4, Houston 1


Another Game 1 surprise. Guards James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon combined for 83 points and the smaller Rockets held their own on the boards and used speed and quickness in transition to score 27 points off turnovers.

LeBron James used a football analogy to sum up the Rockets’ speed: “It’s kind of like the early 2000s, when the St. Louis Rams [were] the ‘Greatest Show on Turf,’ “ he said. “…There’s no way you can simulate that speed, so getting out on the floor and having a Game 1, you get a good feel for it.”

If James meant to imply his team would be able to adjust, he was right.

The Rockets' James Harden tries to drive past the Lakers' Rajon Rondo during their playoff series.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers turned up their intensity on defense and let Rajon Rondo loose coming off the bench. “Playoff Rondo” was a force, igniting a second-half Lakers’ rally in Game 2 to finish with 10 points, nine assists and five steals. In Game 3, he finished with 21 points and nine assists, and in Game 4 he had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“You can’t rattle us,” Kyle Kuzma said after the Lakers again responded to a Game 1 loss with four consecutive wins. “… we just didn’t let it faze us, and kept attacking, kept being who we are, and played Lakers basketball.”

Western Conference finals


Lakers 4, Denver 1

Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray might be the most underrated duo in the NBA. Jokić, even at 7 feet, 284 pounds, has more than a little Larry Bird in him. Murray was among the most dynamic scorers in the playoffs

But they were no match for Anthony Davis and LeBron James in this series.

Davis had 37 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1 as the Lakers used a 17-1 run in the second quarter to pull away and stay away from a never-say-die Nuggets team that had already come back from huge deficits several times during the playoffs. James had 15 points and 12 assists.

The series marked a reintroduction of sorts for Dwight Howard, who played a total of 15 minutes in five semifinal games against the Rockets. Howard entered in the second quarter of Game 1 and the Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 16 points during that span. Howard finished with 13 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks in a little more than 16 minutes. And Howard was a big nuisance to Jokić throughout the series.

The Nuggets, who came back from three-games-to-one deficits against the Utah Jazz and Clippers in the first two rounds, might have taken a 2-1 series lead against the Lakers had Davis not drained a game-winning, three-pointer at the buzzer from 26 feet out in Game 2.

Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) celebrates with teammates after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game.
Lakers star Anthony Davis is swarmed by teammates after making a game-winning three-pointer against the Nuggets in Game 2.
(Associated Press)

Denver won Game 3, 114-106, but Davis and James combined for 60 points -- with Howard contributing 12 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes — in a Game 4 Lakers win.

In the series clincher, James had 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 in advancing to the NBA Finals for the ninth time in 10 years. And as confetti fell after the final buzzer, he made it clear he wasn’t satisfied, sitting on the court expressionless during the celebration.

NBA Finals

Lakers 4, Miami 2

The Lakers captured their record-tying 17th NBA championship — their 12th in Los Angeles — as LeBron James made good on a vow to bring the title back to the purple and gold.

James took home his fourth league title and his fourth Finals MVP, becoming the first player to be chosen the top player in the championship series with three teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Lakers.


In the clincher, James extended his NBA record for Finals’ triple-doubles with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

James enjoyed plenty of support from Anthony Davis, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the deciding game, as well as veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who combined for 36 points.

Lakers star LeBron James and Heat forward Jae Crowder try to track down a loose ball during Game 4.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers enjoyed double-digit margins in three of their four wins in the Finals, but the Heat, despite playing short-handed (they were, for much of the series, without a healthy Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic), put up a fight inspired by Jimmy Butler.

Butler averaged 26.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.8 assists in the series and turned in monster triple-doubles in the Heat’s two wins. He had 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in Game 2, and 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in Game 5.



June 15, 2019: The Pelicans agree to trade Davis to the Lakers in a deal that sends Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart along with several draft picks to New Orleans.

July 2019: The Lakers assemble a roster that includes former All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who signs a $3.5-million, one-year deal, and veteran guards Avery Bradley and Danny Green. They join returning veterans JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as well as youngsters Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso to form a core around LeBron James and Davis.

Aug. 15, 2019: It is learned that Cousins has sustained a likely season-ending knee injury while working out with teammates in Las Vegas before the opening of training camp.

Aug. 26, 2019: The Lakers sign former All-Star center Dwight Howard to replace Cousins on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract at $2.5 million. He returns to the team after an injury-hampered 2012-13 season and stops in Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington.

Sept. 27, 2019: The Lakers opening training camp with media day at their El Segundo facility.

Oct. 5, 2019: The Lakers open the preseason schedule with a 123-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors in the first game at the new Chase Center in San Francisco.

Oct. 6, 2019: As the Lakers head to China to play the Brooklyn Nets in two preseason games while scheduled to make several public appearances, Houston GM Daryl Morey ignites an international incident by tweeting his support for pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.


Oct. 8, 2019: The Lakers arrive in Shanghai without much fanfare and their schedule in jeopardy. Public appearances are canceled, China bans NBA games from being shown on TV, and the NBA is embroiled in a battle over free speech and compromised business interests.

A worker removes a large poster promoting the Lakers-Nets game from the Lujiazui Zhengda Plaza in Shanghai.
(Visual China Group via Getty Images)

Oct. 10-12, 2019: The Nets defeat the Lakers in their preseason games, 114-111 in Shanghai and 91-77 in Shenzhen. They are able to leave China despite fears to the contrary.

Oct. 14, 2019: After returning to California, the Lakers begin a series of three more games against the Warriors, winning two of them.

Oct. 22, 2019: The Clippers, featuring their rebuilt team around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, defeat the “visiting” Lakers 112-102 in the regular-season opener at Staples Center.

Oct. 25-Nov. 8, 2019: The Lakers go on a seven-game winning streak in a number of tight games, beating Western Conference contender Utah to begin and Miami to end it. Davis has a 40-point, 20-rebound game against Memphis in a victory Oct. 29.


Nov. 10, 2019: The NBA defending champion Toronto Raptors defeat the Lakers 133-104.

Nov. 12-29, 2019: The Lakers go on a 10-game winning streak, including five on the road. They pick up a 114-110 win at New Orleans in which Davis scores 41 points.

Dec. 1-15, 2019: After a loss to the Dallas Mavericks ends their winning streak, the Lakers start a seven-game winning streak that includes six road victories, beginning with Denver, Utah and Portland. Their record stands at 24-3, best in the NBA along with the Milwaukee Bucks. Davis, who had a 50-point game against Minnesota on Dec. 8, injures an ankle and will miss some games.

Complete coverage from the Lakers’ championship season

Oct. 11, 2020

Dec. 17-19, 2019: The Lakers end a five-game road trip with their first losing streak, falling at Indiana and in a first-place showdown at Milwaukee. They had won 14 in a row on the road since their season-opening loss.

Dec. 22-25: Their losing streak extends to four games with home losses to Denver and the Clippers, a loss in which James reinjures his groin. Concern grows about their championship aspirations.

Dec. 28, 2019-Jan. 13, 2020: The Lakers enter a favorable part of their schedule and go on a nine-game winning streak. Davis has 46 points and 13 rebounds at home against his former team.


Jan. 15, 2020: James ties a career high with 19 assists, although it comes in a 119-118 loss at home to the Orlando Magic.

Jan. 16-25, 2020: The Lakers hit the road with a win at Houston before losses to Eastern Conference contenders Boston and Philadelphia. LeBron James passes Kobe Bryant for No.3 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in the loss to the 76ers.

Jan. 26, 2020: Bryant dies along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. The team learns of the tragedy while traveling home from Philadelphia.

Jan. 27, 2020: A game against the Clippers scheduled for the next day is postponed because of the tragedy.

Jan. 31, 2020: The Lakers resume the season with a touching remembrance of Bryant and the crash victims that includes cellist Ben Hong’s moving instrumental, a stirring performance by Usher and a heartfelt speech by James. The Lakers fall to Portland 127-119 for their second losing streak.

Feb. 1-27, 2020: The Lakers resume their winning ways, claiming victories in nine of the next 10 games, four of them on the road, including narrow wins in Denver (120-116) and at home over Boston (114-112). James, in his first meeting against Zion Williamson, outscores the heralded rookie 40-29 in a 118-109 win. He also became the first player age 35 to post multiple 30-point triple-doubles with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists in a victory over the Nuggets. The Lakers waive Cousins and sign Markieff Morris after he clears waivers with the Detroit Pistons.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and Clippers guard Kawhi Leonard battle for position during their March 8, 2020.
(Associated Press)

Feb. 29-March 10, 2020: After a loss in Memphis, the Lakers win four in a row, among them victories over Philadelphia, Milwaukee and the Clippers in consecutive games, before losing to Brooklyn. James wins his personal duel with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the team finally gets the best of its hallway rivals. The Lakers sign veteran guard Dion Waiters after waiving Troy Daniels.

March 11, 2020: Before that day’s round of games becomes complete, it is announced that Utah star Rudy Gobert has tested positive for the coronavirus. The NBA announces it is suspending the season, to be resumed when health officials deem it safe.

March 12-April 1: The NBA studies ways to resume the season while players work out and train remotely because all team training facilities are closed.

April 2-May: The NBA announces plans to allow teams to practice in limited capacity at training facilities. Across the nation, protests over police brutality and systemic racism grow, including participation by NBA players, some questioning whether the season should continue.

June 26: The NBA and players’ union agree to a quarantine plan to send the 22 teams with legitimate playoff chances to Orlando, Fla., to finish the season at the Disney World sports complex.


July 1, 2020: The Lakers sign free agent J.R. Smith after Bradley opts out of playing during the season restart in Orlando because of his health concern for one of his children.

July 7-9, 2020: Teams participating in the restart of the season arrive in Orlando.

July 10-28, 2020: Teams in the Orlando bubble practice for two weeks before playing three exhibition games.

July 30-Aug. 13:, 2020: The Lakers resume the season with a 103-101 win over the Clippers. The Lakers clinch the No.1 seed in the West despite going 3-5 in what the league calls “seeding games.” The other two wins are over Western Conference rivals Denver and Utah.