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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Jamal Murray shines with 34 points in Nuggets’ Game 4 victory

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Nuggets had to grind out a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, and Jamal Murray stole the show. The former Cat finished with a game-high 34 points, while adding five rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers. He was 10-20 from the floor, 3-7 from behind-the-arc and 11-11 from the free-throw line. The series is now tied at 2-2.

Along with his 34 points, Murray had a few extra-impressive shots. For example, this slam:

And this over-the-backboard bucket:

His first-half outing kept the Nuggets in the game (17 points on 6-9 shooting), while his second-half performance helped seal the deal for Denver in their 116-112 victory.

Murray’s post-season stats are as strong as they’ve ever been. He’s averaging 20.5 points in just over 35 minutes per game, while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor, 34.4 percent from deep and 83.9 percent from the charity stripe.


Fellow Cats Jarred Vanderbilt and Trey Lyles did not play in Sunday night’s game for the Nuggets. Skal Labissiere did not enter the game for the Trail Blazers.


Injury Updates on Enes Kanter and Jamal Murray

(Photo via Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers)

The respective injuries to Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray and Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter have raised several questions regarding the series between the teams of these two former Kentucky players. The Trail Blazers currently holds a 2-1 lead over the Nuggets with a pivotal Game 4 taking place in Portland on Sunday night.

Murray (right thigh) and Kanter (shoulder) have been dealing with injuries since the series began, both reaggravating them sometime during the round. Here are the updates on both players as of Sunday morning.

Jamal Murray is dealing with a right thigh injury from the first round series against the Spurs that he reaggravated in Game 2 against the Blazers. He played 55 minutes in the four-overtime Game 3 death match that saw Portland sneak out with a win, much of it through significant pain.

He was noticeably exhausted towards the end of Game 3 – along with everyone else on the court – and could barely get his feet under his shot. Playing that many minutes on a sore thigh while trying to hoist up 25-footers cannot be an easy task. Odds are Murray isn’t going to be playing at 100 percent health any time soon, but that won’t keep him out of the game.

“I always play through pain,” Murray said after Game 2, according to the Denver Post. “It’s something I’ve always done. I always put myself through more and do more than I can. Playing through pain is just another challenge for me. I’m gonna do it regardless of the stakes. Just try to be smart about it, obviously. If it’s something I can play through, it’s what I’m gonna do.”

Murray is expected to play in Game 4.

Enes Kanter’s injury is a bit more significant – especially since he keeps making it worse. Kanter played a career-high 56 minutes on Friday night and reinjured his already separated shoulder during the first overtime.

“First overtime, I think I separated my shoulder more,” Kanter said postgame, according to ESPN. “I had to tuck my arm into my jersey because I couldn’t carry my arm. I’m glad we got a win, man. Whatever it takes. You’ve got to sacrifice everything. I’m proud of my teammates.”

Kanter originally separated the shoulder during Game 5 of the Blazers’ first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and was listed as questionable to begin the second round, but has played massively important minutes for a Portland team desperate for his production. He’s averaged 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds through the first three games.

I’m not a huge fan of Kanter snitching to the NBA because he doesn’t like how Nikola Jokic is trying to box him out in a playoff game, but I do get why he’s doing it. Jokic did make contact with Kanter’s shoulder, but also, c’mon, this is the playoffs. Bully him back if you don’t like it. The referees aren’t going to call that.

Kanter also apparently injured his right elbow during Game 3, as well. He was icing both his shoulder and elbow after the win. There was a point during the game where Kanter said he could no longer feel his shoulder. I’m no doctor, but that sounds bad.

“I hope I can play,” Kanter said. “But I’ll be fine.”

Game 4 tips off at 7:00 p.m. on TNT in Portland.


Three Wildcats in Top 20 in new 2019 Mock Draft

Three Wildcats in Top 20 in new 2019 Mock Draft

With the NFL Draft almost a week behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to the Wildcats who will be featured in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Even though we’re less than two months away from the big night, we still will not know the draft order for two more weeks. In spite of the uncertainty, there’s a new NBA mock draft worth your time.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie provides depth you find in few others. In his third NBA mock draft, three Wildcats are in the top 20. P.J. Washington is the first off the board and the last in the lottery at No. 14, immediately followed by Tyler Herro, who is one spot ahead of Southern Indiana’s beloved Romeo Langford. The most intriguing portion fo the post is his analysis of Keldon Johnson at No. 20 overall.

Johnson is another player who drops a bit on this mock draft in comparison to last time. NBA evaluators wonder about the skill/athleticism combination right now. He’s not an elite athlete. His full-season 38 percent mark from 3 was good, but it dropped substantially down to 32.7 in tougher SEC play this season. His handle is strong, but largely resigned to only a straight line. Defensively, he has a great mindset, but can occasionally struggle to stay in front of guys that are quicker. Despite being a good passer at youth levels, that part of his game didn’t really show up within Kentucky’s offense.

Still, Johnson is a young, attack-oriented wing with potential to play on both ends of the floor if he can keep working on his footwork. And at the next level, if the shooting translates at the full season number, there should be more space for him to attack in a straight line off of heavy closeouts. Plus, he has a great frame at 211 pounds already, and would be able to put up with the physicality of the NBA. I’m still relatively a fan of Johnson, but he’s definitely more of a role player prospect than a potential star right now.

All of these projections are subject to change once we learn the draft order at the May 14 lottery in Chicago. As for now, it’s good to know generally where each player falls before they are scrutinized at the NBA Combine, one day after the NBA lottery.

[The Athletic]