Good morning, folks. Jamal Murray, everyone. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Jamal Murray saves the Nuggets, force Game 6 against Jazz
It’s going to be hard to put into words what we all witnessed from Denver Nuggets ‘point gawd’ Jamal Murray on Tuesday night, but I’m going to try my best. Here we go…
The former Kentucky Wildcat put together arguably the most important outing of his still-young career, carrying his Nuggets team down the stretch to force a Game 6 against the Utah Jazz. Murray poured in 42 points on the evening, 33 of them coming in the second half alone, sparking a massive run by Denver that allowed them to keep the series alive.
On the surface, 33 points in a single half is insane. It’s even more ridiculous when you consider he’s now done it twice this series, joining James Harden, Allen Iverson, and Russell Westbrook as the only such players do that throughout an entire playoffs. Murray has now done it twice in six games. But it was how Murray scored his 33 second-half points that have me on the brink of being convinced he’s taken another leap. When I tell you he could not miss even if he wanted to, I mean it. Murray hardly stared down the basket on half of his shots, simply catching and firing from wherever he received the ball or had an inch of breathing room. His night was highlighted by this gravity-defying 360-layup that I’m pretty sure is illegal in at least 20 different states.
What the shit is this https://t.co/RtDm4OqjKD
— Zack Geoghegan (@ZGeogheganKSR) August 26, 2020
But let’s take Murray’s night even a step further. He also added eight rebounds and eight assists to his stat line while turning the ball over a whopping ZERO times despite playing 41 minutes. He shot 17-26 from the floor overall and hit on a 4-8 clip from deep. In back-to-back games now, Murray has combined to drop 92 points, 19 rebounds, 16 assists, and ZERO FREAKING TURNOVERS. When Denver’s back has been against the wall, it’s been Murray, not necessarily All-Star center Nikola Jokic, who has brought his team back to life. With the game tied at 101, Murray scored the next nine points for Denver to eventually secure the win. He also played the entirety of the second half. The Nuggets have been desperate for Murray to hit another gear–the next five years of the franchise depends on it–and it would appear he’s doing so at the perfect time.
I am going to say one negative thing, though. It’s becoming painfully clear that this Nuggets team at its current construction is at it’s best when Murray is in all-out attack mode. He didn’t switch that flip until his team was down 15 points in the third quarter. For Denver to advance deep into the playoffs, they need near-perfect outings from both Murray and Jokic. When that happens, they win nine times out of ten, but if one of them lags behind, there hasn’t been another guy on the team who has proven they can make up for that lost production. Michael Porter Jr. is fantastic when he’s shooting, but a massive liability literally everywhere else. He’s only scored a combined 31 points in the last three games.
I’ll end my thoughts on Murray with this, and it’s an opinion shared by his head coach Michael Malone. It’s not often you find a player who thrives when the lights are brightest, but that appears to be just what Murray craves. He loves when the pressure is on; he thrives under it.
“Jamal embraces the moment,” Malone said after the game. “He’s not afraid of it. Some people run away from those moments. He looks for them. And without Jamal Murray’s play, and not even just the points, but his attitude, that swagger, that confidence. That is contagious to all of our other players.”
Onto Game 6…
Other notes from the Bubble
- The Los Angeles Clippers came out and absolutely smoked the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 as Paul George finally broke out of his slump to drop 35 points in a Game 5 win for the Clips. L.A. took a 3-2 series lead following the 154-111 blowout. After drilling the game-winning shot in Game 4, Luka Doncic was held to just 22 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Dallas was without star center Kristaps Porzingis for the second consecutive game, as well.
- There was some slight controversy toward the end of this game, after Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. was seen stepping on the already-injured ankle of Doncic–and it didn’t exactly look like an accident, either.
An NBA basketball court is 4,700 square feet, and Marcus Morris steps directly on Luka’s publicly injured left ankle… coincidence? You tell me. pic.twitter.com/U6Mfb2fD5e
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) August 26, 2020
- There are plenty of other angles, so I’ll let you all be the judge. But just from looking at Morris’ track record and how long he’s been in the league, this hardly feels coincidental.
- The mood across the Bubble has been that of dejection over the last 24-plus hours, as players and coaches are still trying to process the emotions of the tragic shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back by the police, that happened this past weekend in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There have been rumblings of potentially boycotting games from the Toronto Raptors, who are wondering out loud if now is the right time to continue playing basketball. A similar sentiment was shared throughout the course of Tuesday’s games, as Michael Malone and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers gave some passionate and heartfelt thoughts on the situation. I’ll post both of their conversations below and I would encourage everyone to watch, particularly Rivers, who was on the verge of tears and clearly frustrated.
Doc Rivers with so much insight and honesty on the state of our world pic.twitter.com/Zdyla2adsh
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) August 26, 2020
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) August 25, 2020
Everything about this sucks. The players can’t be expected to make a significant change while trapped in a Bubble, and, as Jaylen Brown poignantly pointed out, 23-year olds shouldn’t be the ones with the pressure to make the change in the first place. It’s awkward listening to players and coaches say all of these things, then watch them go play basketball as if it never happened, but there aren’t many other options right now. The best way I can describe this situation is with one word: frustrating.
Series standings from Tuesday
(2) Clippers lead (7) Mavericks 3-2
(6) Jazz lead (3) Nuggets 3-2
|Jamal Murray (DEN)||117-107 W vs. UTA||42||17-26 (4-8)||8||8||1||0||0||+20||41|
|Patrick Patterson (LAC)||154-111 W vs. DAL||9||3-3 (3-3)||1||2||0||0||0||+12||5|
|Michael KIdd-Gilchrist (DAL)||111-154 L @ LAC||3||1-6 (0-4)||0||1||1||1||0||-9||14|
TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE
4:00 (NBA TV): Magic @ Bucks (Bledsoe) [MIL leads 3-1]
6:30 (TNT): Thunder (Diallo, Gilgeous-Alexander, Noel) @ Rockets [Series tied 2-2]
9:00 (TNT): Trail Blazers (Gabriel) @ Lakers (Davis, Rondo: questionable) [LAL leads 3-1]