On Saturday night, Game 1 of their second-round series was played between the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns. The Nuggets cruised to a 125-107 victory against the Suns, led by Jamal Murray’s 34 points and six three-point field goals for Denver.
The team that ended with the top seed in the Western Conference was led by Nikola Jokic, who scored 24 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, and Aaron Gordon, who scored 23. Jokic is the defending and two-time defending NBA Most Valuable Player. But this was the Murray Show, in which he made six of ten from beyond the arc and constantly urged the already boisterous audience to make even more noise.
Devin Booker added 27 points to the Suns’ total, while Chris Paul finished with 11. Kevin Durant led the team in scoring with 29 points. During the first-round series victory against the Los Angeles Clippers, Booker scored 37.2 points on average per game.
Game 2 is Monday night in Denver.
When these teams met in the second round of the playoffs two years ago, the Suns swept the Nuggets and advanced to the next round. This year’s matchup is a different kind of playoff series. After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, Murray could no longer play for Denver at that time.
Now that he is healthy, Murray is showing glimpses of the form he will have in the 2020 NBA draft while playing in the NBA bubble, contributing to Denver’s advancement to the Western Conference finals.
The highlight of Murray’s night came when he intercepted a pass, dribbled past defenders Paul and Durant at full speed, and finished the play by scoring a layup off the backboard of the basket. It roused the entire audience, which was at its maximum capacity, to their feet.
The explosive point guard was not through motivating the crowd, as he made a 3-point shot with just under seven minutes left to play. He pleaded with them to make louder noise while pressing his palm to his ear to emphasize his point.
After having a 106-95 advantage with 7:40 left to play, the Nuggets went on a 14-0 run to seal the deal and win. The lead for Denver reached as high as 25 points at one point, and the team improved to 38-7 at home both in the regular season and in the playoffs.
The difference in the game came from beyond the arc, as the Nuggets dominated the Suns with a 48-21 scoring advantage.
The Nuggets used many defenders to thwart Durant’s offensive attempts. He shot 12 for 19 from the field but only made one of three 3-point attempts. With 4,730 postseason points, Kevin Durant is getting closer to overtaking Karl Malone (4,761 points), who now sits in seventh place on the list of most playoff points scored in the NBA.
When Booker was called for a charge on a made basket with 55.4 seconds left in the first quarter, Suns head coach Monty Williams immediately exercised his challenge. This was the first time that Williams had used it. It paid off because the call was reversed, and Booker was awarded a free throw, which he successfully made… Deandre Ayton finished with 14 points in the scoring column.
Michael Malone, the head coach of the Nuggets, took a timeout 32 seconds into the second half in an attempt to calm down his players… There was a total of 14 points scored by Bruce Brown.
Malone said that the one thing about Paul that has remained the same throughout the years despite the passage of time is Paul’s exceptional level of competitiveness. Paul will be 38 years old the following week.
“He’ll be 55 years old, playing in a rec league back in North Carolina, and he’s going to be the same guy,” said Malone. “The man despises defeat, is very competitive, and is undoubtedly one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around… Regardless of where he is in his career, he always finds a way to affect winning at a high level significantly.