It must suck to be Jamal Murray right now. Having to sit on the sidelines in street clothes is not fun for any competitive athlete, but as one half of the Denver Nuggets’ star duo, Murray knows that his Nuggets wouldn’t have so easily gone down 0-3 against the Phoenix Suns.
Murray’s regular season averages of 21.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 4.8 APG simply haven’t been replaced by anyone on Denver’s squad, and his fearless attacks to the basket and deadly threes are a weapon that is sorely missed.
Nikola Jokic isn’t getting enough help from anyone, and while the Joker is averaging 26.0 PPG, 14.0 RPG and 6.3 APG against Phoenix, the second-leading scorer on his team is a hobbled Michael Porter Jr., who’s averaging 13.7 PPG. The only other Nugget to average in double figures is the recently-returned Will Barton at 12.0 PPG.
Jokic is certainly trying his best, as evidenced by his 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 3, but the new league MVP’s brilliance can’t carry the team alone. The Suns are just too dangerous a team thanks to the electric play of Chris Paul, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, and a single star can’t take those guys down alone.
As good as Jokic is, he’s not going to be able to match the production of the Suns starting five:
- Devin Booker (22.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- Chris Paul (21.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 11.3 APG, 1.3 SPG)
- Mikal Bridges (16.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.7 SPG)
- DeAndre Ayton (15.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG)
- Jae Crowder (13.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG)
The Suns’ fifth-leading scorer is barely behind the Nuggets’ second-best scorer. It’s hard to doubt that this would be the case with Murray on the floor.
Last year, with a healthy Murray, the Nuggets came back from two 1-3 series deficits. They were beaten in the Conference Finals by the eventual champion LA Lakers, so there’s no shame in that. This time around, there is a giant missing presence on the court thanks to Murray’s ACL tear.
It’s pretty sad to watch Denver’s season unravel under the Suns’ brilliance, and they’re going to be looking back at that one fateful April evening with regret. Remember, Murray suffered the injury with less than a minute left in the game.
Let’s just hope that Murray comes back strong next year. The NBA is a better place with him healthy and playing well.