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LeBron James undecided on Lakers, NBA future after playoff exit

LeBron James was noncommittal regarding his future with the Los Angeles Lakers, and in the NBA as a whole, following their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers kept themselves alive in the series by winning Game 4 on Saturday, but they couldn’t prolong their season any longer as they were beaten 108-106 in Game 5 on Monday, sealing Denver’s 4-1 success.

Jamal Murray sank the winner with 3.6 seconds left after James had tied things up at 106 with a pair of free throws, part of a 30-point haul from the league’s all-time leading scorer.

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Anthony Davis was limited to 17 points and Austin Reaves tacked on 19 for the Lakers, while Murray led Denver with 32 as Michael Porter Jr. contributed 26 and Nikola Jokic had 25.

The Lakers have now failed to progress beyond the first round in three of four years since winning their last NBA championship in 2019-20.

The defeat cut James’ 21st season in the league short and led to questions about his future – the 39-year-old has until June 29 to either opt into his final year with Los Angeles or become an unrestricted free agent.

“I don’t have an answer, to be honest,” James said. “I haven’t given it much thought. We’ll cross that when we need to.”

Asked if Monday’s game may have been his last with the Lakers, James said: “I’m not going to answer that.”

The Nuggets, meanwhile, progress to face the third-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves in an intriguing Western Conference semifinal matchup, with Murray’s late heroics accounting for two of their four wins over the Lakers.

Asked to compare his latest winner to his Game 2 buzzer-beater, he smiled: “This one was a little better.”

Murray almost didn’t make it to the court, getting last-minute medical clearance to play after warming up with an ice pack attached to his injured calf.

Reflecting on the decision to let Murray play, Denver coach Michael Malone said: “He just told me, ‘I’m glad I played because I don’t know if we win if I don’t play tonight’.

“I said, ‘Well, that’s the understatement of the year!’ That kid’s a warrior, man. The bigger the moment, the kid just continues to shine.”

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