SALT LAKE CITY — Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone called Monday’s fourth quarter and overtime periods “the Jamal Murray show.”
Scoreless through the majority of the fourth quarter, Murray heated up at exactly the right time for the Nuggets, scoring 20 points from the 3:13 mark in the final period of regulation until his final dagger three sailed through the net with 46 seconds left in overtime.
Murray finished the game with an incredibly efficient team-high 36 points, shooting 13-of-20 from the field, including going 6-of-9 from 3-point land.
“Every time he shot it, it was like you knew it was going in. He shot into a very big basket,” Malone said. “Jamal was incredible tonight.”
“Every time he shot it, it was like you knew it was going in. He shot into a very big basket. Jamal was incredible tonight.” — Denver coach Mike Malone
It wasn’t just Murray that was knocking down long shots for the Nuggets. The entire team shot above and beyond their normal averages finishing 22-of-41. That 53.7% shooting clinic is well above their regular season average of 35.8% from beyond the arc. In fact, of the 22 bubble teams the Nuggets were 18th in three-point attempts, hitting at just above 36% through the seeding games.
“This is the playoffs now,” Malone said. “The seeding games are over, this is for real. Every possession matters.”
They mattered more than ever against the Utah Jazz on Monday as Donovan Mitchell put 57 points. Despite Mitchell’s own 22 fourth quarter points, when the Nuggets needed a boost, were falling behind, or saw a chance to seize the game, they made shots. Leading that charge was Murray.
“Jamal’s energy is infectious and contagious,” Malone added. “When he got going and matched fire with fire. ... We need that from Jamal. He’s an energy bringer. He’s a guy that takes his game and his team to another level.”
The Jazz could feel that energy that Murray was creating. Mitchell said that in those crunch-time moments, every time Murray, Nikola Jokic, or Monte Morris would drain a three it was deflating and the Jazz let it affect them on the other end.
(3) Denver Nuggets
vs. (6) Utah Jazz
Nuggets 135, Jazz 125 (OT)
Jazz 124, Nuggets 105
Jazz 124, Nuggets 87
Jazz 129, Nuggets 127
Nuggets 117, Jazz 107
Nuggets 119, Jazz 107
Nuggets 80, Jazz 78, Nuggets win series 4-3
It’s not likely that the Nuggets are going to continue to shoot upwards of 50% from three throughout the best-of-seven series, and the Jazz will surely be looking at film and making adjustments in hopes of closing off some of the open opportunities they had. But, many of the Nuggets shots came on tough step-backs and with the Jazz closing out and contesting. In that case, there’s not a lot more you can do.
“When guys are making step-back threes with a hand in their face it’s tough,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “You tip your hat.”