Nuggets guard Jamal Murray putting on impressive basketball show in playoffs

Everyone knew that Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was a good NBA player. But what he’s done in the playoffs has opened a lot of eyes. Here’s the Denver Post (via the OC Register on what he’s been doing:

Maybe you didn’t believe it when Jamal Murray reeled off 142 points across three spellbinding games in the first round playoff series against Utah.

Or perhaps you weren’t swayed by his 40-piece in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round that sealed Denver’s second 3-1 comeback in as many rounds.

But if you somehow still didn’t believe that Murray’s growth was real, that his ascension to stardom hadn’t arrived, let Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals sink in. Denver’s emotional heartbeat saved the Nuggets’ season. He wanted to right what he felt was Sunday night’s wrong.

“We feel like we should be up 2-1 right now, to be honest,” said Murray, after dropping 28 points, dishing 12 assists and hauling in eight rebounds in Denver’s 114-106 Game 3 win.

There has been even more pressure on Murray and star center teammate Nikola Jokic in these playoffs due to Will Barton being out with a knee injury. If you were going to name the next best player on the squad after those first two, it’s Barton. The latest is, there’s no timetable on Barton’s return, and therefore there is no reason to think he’ll suddenly be activated in this postseason.

Thankfully for Denver, Murray has done an awesome job at helping make up the difference.

Some Lakers takeaways from Game 2 win vs Nuggets

Yesterday’s Game 2 in the Western Conference Fnals between the Lakers and Nuggets was a thrill-ride. Here’s the LA Times with some takeaways:

The Lakers made the Nuggets pay for their early sloppiness, which helped them cover some of their own mistakes. Both teams committed 14 first-half turnovers. Despite this parity on turnovers, the Lakers had a 10-point lead going into halftime and led by 16 in the first half, perhaps driving home the idea that to beat the Lakers requires mistake-free basketball.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel didn’t feel quite so comfortable for much of the game. “Leads mean nothing against this team,” Vogel said.

Vogel said he would consider starting Dwight Howard in Game 2 but stayed with JaVale McGee at center.

The Nuggets asked a lot of guard Jamal Murray, who played 44 minutes on Sunday night. Murray scored 25 points and had a game-high plus/minus rating of 16.

The Lakers like to play at a fast pace, and the Nuggets made an effort to disrupt that on Sunday. They had some success at times, and it’s something the Lakers want to keep an eye on.

Leading scorers for both teams so far in the 2020 NBA playoffs:

LAKERS:
Anthony Davis 28.7 PPG
LeBron James 25.6
Kyle Kuzma 10.8
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 10.1
Rajon Rondo 9.0

NUGGETS:
Jamal Murray 26.6 PPG
Nikola Jokic 25.4
Michael Porter Jr. 11.5
Jerami Grant 9.9
Monte Morris 8.5

Nuggets must find way to win Game 3 vs Lakers

The Nuggets came within one Anthony Davis jumpshot at the buzzer of tying their Western Conference Finals playoff series with the Lakers 1-1-. But Davis’ shot went in, so the Lakers are up 2-0. Here’s the Denver Post on the Nuggets’ situation:

Down 2-0, the Nuggets are in must-win territory. Despite their previous escapes, a loss in Tuesday’s Game 3 will all but start their chartered flight home.

Once the pain subsides and sober heads prevail, the Nuggets will take a fresh look at what happened. They’ll see 19 turnovers, including many that were unforced. They’ll see breakdowns on the defensive glass, which can’t happen against a team of the Lakers’ caliber. They’ll notice hesitation on the offensive end, a non-starter when the team’s best player is also the most unselfish.

But they’ll also see an unbending will that stormed back from 16 points down in the second half to take the lead late. And they’ll see a second-half defense reminiscent of the one that saved the Nuggets six times so far in elimination games this postseason. Maybe most importantly, and the reason why the Nuggets aren’t buried yet, is the film will show a dogged fight from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, whose 31 points in the second-half bested Davis and LeBron James’ 28.

The Nuggets definitely need more from starters not named Jamal Murray or Nikola Jokic. In the Game 2 loss, shooting guard Gary Harris shot 1 for 6, small forward Jerami Grant did grab three steals but had just seven points and no rebounds, and Paul Millsap did grab eight rebounds but only scored six points.

There are no NBA games tonight. Game 3 of this series is tomorrow, and the Celtics vs. Heat series resumes on Wednesday.

No timetable on a Will Barton return for Nuggets

The Nuggets, who will face the Lakers in the 2020 Western Conference Finals, will remain without the services of Will Barton. Here’s the Denver Post with a report:

It’s been nearly a month since Nuggets wing Will Barton left the “bubble” to continue rehabilitation of his right knee, and there remains “no timetable” for his return, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told The Denver Post.

Barton left Aug. 19 in search of a second opinion due to the knee issue that had lingered and had led to soreness in other areas of his body, a league source told The Post.

Barton was the third-leading scorer for the Nuggets this regular season, averaging 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

The Lakers in these playoffs remain without guard Avery Bradley, who was one of a small handful of players who elected not to participate in the league restart at the Disney NBA bubble.

Game 1 between the Nuggets and Lakers is tomorrow at 9PM ET, televised on TNT.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray should be okay to play in Game 7 vs Clippers

The Nuggets and Clippers are tied 3-3 in their second round playoff series. Game 7 is Tuesday night. And it sounds like Denver will have star guard Jamal Murray in action. Here’s the Denver Post reporting:

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Monday he expects point guard Jamal Murray to be “ready to go” come Tuesday’s winner-take-all Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals.

Murray was leveled early in the third quarter on a layup by Clipper wing Paul George and was on the ground writhing in pain for a few tense moments. Though Malone hadn’t seen him yet Monday morning when he talked with the media, he said he expected that with rest until tomorrow night’s late tipoff Murray should be able to recover.

Both Murray and star Nuggets center Nikola Jokic are averaging 26.1 points per game so far in the 2020 NBA playoffs. After those two players, there’s a drop-off in scoring, at 11.8 PPG from reserve Michael Porter Jr.

Murray has put up some incredible games in these playoffs.

Tuesday’s Game 7 is must-watch.

The Lakers await the winner of the series.

Nuggets face tough playoff opponent in Clippers

The Clippers were one of the league’s best teams this regular season, and that remains the case in the playoffs. Here’s the Denver Post reporting on Jamal Murray and Denver’s prospects after Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points as LA took a 1-0 series lead with a 120-97 win on Thursday:

The Clip Show was always going to be a matchup problem, largely because they’re also Blue Arrow Kryptonite. Sight-lines along the perimeter get clogged by waves of big guards with incredible reach. Behind them, a mess of broad shoulders and elbows adjoined like the last line of defense on a foosball table.

[Jamal] Murray’s averaged 12.9 points per game and drained just 26.2% of his 3-point attempts in 14 lifetime meetings with the Clippers, his worst career numbers against any Western Conference dance partner save for Houston (11.5 points per game, 20.4% on treys).

The Nuggets insisted there were no ill-effects from that first-half spill with Utah’s Joe Ingles on Tuesday, but you wonder. Then again, coming off the greatest escape since Steve McQueen and a two-day turnaround, was it any wonder they looked gassed?

“(Los Angeles) got into us,” Nuggets guard Monte Morris said. “They had four days off. We expected them to come out fresh and to set the tone.”

Jamal Murray shines as Nuggets win Game 5 vs Jazz

While Nuggets center Nikola Jokic scored big, guard Jamal Murray went wild dropping serious buckets Tuesday. Here’s the Denver Post reporting:

With the Nuggets facing elimination from the playoffs and trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, Murray ripped Game 5 away from Utah’s grips and ensured Denver could fight another day. The Nuggets’ 117-107 white-knuckle win guaranteed, at least, a Game 6 on Thursday, with Utah holding a 3-2 lead.

As his late 3-pointer rattled home, giving the Nuggets a 108-101 lead with 2:00 remaining, there was no hiding Murray’s smile. As this series has proved, Murray thrives as the tension mounts. His monumental 42-point masterpiece saved the Nuggets’ season…

Nikola Jokic added 31 points, six rebounds and four assists, his selfless nature more than willing to cede the spotlight to his counterpart. Neither Nuggets cornerstone rested during the second half.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 30 points, but the Nuggets may have finally found the answer to Utah’s offensive riddle. The Jazz managed only 44 points in the second half.

In addition to his scoring, Murray contributed eight rebounds, eight assists and no turnovers. A fantastic performance.

Mitchell has been incredible for the Jazz all series. Through five games he’s averaging 37.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, on 54% FG shooting and 53% from three-point range.

Nuggets guard Monte Morris analyzes screens set by Jazz center Rudy Gobert

The art of setting screens is tricky business. There’s a fine line between what’s legal and illegal. And making the right call on each instance is one of the many difficult aspects of a referee’s job.

The Nuggets and Jazz are currently playing a first-round playoff series. Here’s the Denver Post reporting what Nuggets guard Monte Morris had to say about screens set by Jazz center Rudy Gobert:

Jazz center Rudy Gobert is a prolific screener, both in terms of sheer volume and effectiveness. A review of Denver’s Game 2 loss showed that he was involved, either directly or indirectly, in half of Utah’s 20 3-pointers.

When asked about it Thursday, Nuggets point guard Monte Morris said he felt some of them were illegal.

“He does a good job at setting screens,” Morris said. “I don’t think all of them are legal, so I mean, the ref can’t call all of them, but we gotta get into the ball and fight through them and not wait on what the ref’s going to do.”

The series is tied 1-1. This after Utah’s 124-105 Game 2 win yesterday. In the victory, Gobert shot 7-of-10 for 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a lot of screens.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a big fan of Nuggets center Nikola Jokic

It’s always fun to hear how NBA players and coaches talk about guys on other teams. Here’s the Denver Post reporting Gregg Popovich’s words about Nuggets start center Nikola Jokic:

Legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is more ornery than complimentary and more evasive than honest.

That’s why, even after Nikola Jokic’s 25-point, 11-assist clinic against the Spurs on Aug. 6, his postgame testimonial came as such a shock.

“He’s like a reincarnation of Larry Bird,” said Popovich, who two years ago scoffed at the suggestion Jokic was revolutionary.

“When I think of revolutions, I think of people like Che Guevara, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin,” he said in December 2018. “I don’t really think of Jokic as revolutionary, so I think you’re a bit hyperbolic there. But he is one heck of a player.”

The Nuggets in the first round will face a short-handed Jazz team that will be without forward Bojan Bogdanovic for the duration of the the playoffs due to injury, and point guard Mike Conley for at least a game or so, as the team waits for him to return from Ohio following the birth of his son.

Nuggets will be missing multiple starters Saturday in game vs Heat

On Saturday, the Nuggets will face the Heat at 1 p.m. ET, with the game televised nationally on ESPN. Here’s the Denver Post reporting:

Denver will be down starters Gary Harris (right hip muscle strain) and Will Barton (knee soreness), while point guard Jamal Murray (left hamstring tightness) is questionable for the opener. Nuggets reserve Vlatko Cancar was also listed on Friday’s injury report with a left foot fracture.

After arriving late to Orlando, Harris missed all three of the team’s scrimmages.

Leading Scorers

Heat (PPG)
Jimmy Butler 20.2
Bam Adebayo 16.2
Goran Dragic 16.1
Kendrick Nunn 15.6
Duncan Robinson 13.3

Nuggets (PPG)
Nikola Jokic 20.2
Jamal Murray 18.8
Will Barton 15.1
Paul Millsap 12.0
Jerami Grant 11.6