LeBron, dominant Lakers rout Rockets to advance

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A one-year break for LeBron James and a nine-year hiatus for his franchise came to an end on Saturday: James and the Los Angeles Lakers are back in the conference finals.

James poured in 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers’ 119-96 Game 5 victory over the Houston Rockets, storming back to take the Western Conference semifinals series 4-1 after Houston upset L.A. in Game 1.

The Lakers’ star improved to 37-10 in close-out opportunities, extending his streak to five straight wins in that situation. And L.A. snapped the longest cold spell in team history without making it to the round that determines a berth in the NBA Finals.

Facing a uniquely structured Houston team that traded its center, Clint Capela, midseason in order to go all in on coach Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball approach, L.A. beat the Rockets at their own game as the series played out.

L.A. took control of the series by turning to Markieff Morris as its starting big man in place of JaVale McGee from halftime of Game 3 through the end of the series and dominated.

Morris had 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting in Game 5 and went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. L.A. outshot the Rockets from the outside as a team Saturday, going 19-for-37 from 3 (51.4%) compared to Houston’s 13-for-49 (26.5%).

The Lakers will await the winner of the LA ClippersDenver Nuggets series to see if Los Angeles’ first-ever NBA city series will be played out in the bubble in Orlando or if the Lakers will face the Nuggets in a rematch of the 2009 conference finals.