Jamal Murray opened Sunday’s 108-102 win over the Nets on a heater. He tallied 20 points in the first quarter alone. He sank seven of his 10 attempts and all four of his blue arrows from beyond the arc. Murray was dialed in.
Here’s (almost) all of those makes.
Basket 1: 9:41 left in the 1st quarter — 3-pointer off a Jokic assist
Running point total: 3
There’s no video evidence that this basket actually happened, but the play-by-play data says Murray hit a pull-up 3 from 24 feet out. Both the Nuggets and Nets broadcasts were down for this play.
Basket 2: 8:08 left in the 1st quarter — Driving floater off a Jokic assist
Running point total: 5
This was great recognition from Murray and correctly timed movement to create an angle for Nikola Jokic to pass him the ball as soon as he saw his defender go to double. Finney-Smith closes out hard and Murray drives right by him.
Basket 3: 6:09 left in the 1st quarter — Standstill, catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off a Porter assist
Running point total: 8
Nothing crazy here. Just Michael Porter Jr. making the extra pass to an open man.
Basket 4: 4:02 left in the 1st quarter — Catch-and-shoot 3 with movemenet off a Jokic assist
Running point total: 11
This is more smart off-ball movement from Murray when his man goes to double Jokic. He creates the angle for Jokic to get him the ball back.
Basket 5: 2:50 left in the 1st quarter — Catch-and-shoot 3 with movement off a Jokic assist
Running point total: 14
Again, Spencer Dinwiddie looks to double Jokic when he makes his move. And the defense is too slow to react to Murray. Again, more well-timed movement from Murray to create even more ground for Joe Harris to make up in his close-out.
Basket 6: 1:40 left in the 1st quarter — Right-handed hook over Spencer Dinwiddie from the post
Running point total: 16
Murray is up to 14 points now and feeling it. He takes Dinwiddie, who has a three-inch height and a reach advantage, into the post and just out-muscles him. Murray loves post-up opportunities when he can get them — they just usually come against favorable matchups. Murray’s strength shines here.
Free-throws: 1:17 left in the 1st quarter — Attacking Finney-Smith while playing off the ball
Running point total: 18
This is Murray in attack mode still. These are the types of healthy actions Denver wants to get him in when he’s playing off the ball next to Bruce Brown or another point guard.
Basket 7: 16 seconds left in the 1st quarter — Turnaround, fadeaway jumper from mid-range
Running point total: 20
Murray gets the switch off Mikal Bridges and puts Finney-Smith, a serviceable switch defender, into the mix. He creates space and beats him with a smooth turnaround.
Murray was pretty coy after this win. “I just got the ball and made the most of my opportunity for the most part,” he told reporters postgame.” But it was a massive effort from the Nuggets’ point guard in a spot where Denver needed it.
The Nuggets had lost 5 of 6 heading into Sunday’s matchup and on the second night of a back-to-back against a team that had just beaten them last week. Murray’s game fell off in the second half as Nikola Jokic (22 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists) and Michael Porter Jr. (28 points, 9 rebounds), picked up their scoring, but his 20-point opening quarter was the 1st round knockdown that the Nuggets needed to start this game off right. Denver really needed this win and Murray played a big part in it.
Watching his first-quarter baskets back, it’s clear why Murray was able to find a rhythm. He was decisive, confident and aggressive on all of these possessions. There was no second-guessing. There was no indecision. Murray can get himself (and the Nuggets’ offense into trouble) when he’s shot-faking open 3s, over-passing it, and playing too unselfish. He played with the right level of aggressiveness to open this game vs. the Nets.
Teams are going to try and make Murray beat them in the playoffs. His game-to-game inconsistencies make him an opposing defense’s clear choice in that debate, and the Nets made him beat them in Sunday’s first quarter.
It led to Muray’s highest individual scoring quarter of the season.