Jamal Murray has never been afraid to take a big shot. It feels like a lifetime ago that he had that amazing duel with Donovan Mitchell in the bubble, but now that he’s healthy, Murray is back to his old antics.
Things didn’t start out particularly well, with Murray shooting 3 of 13 overall in the first half and 2 of 8 from the three-point line for 10 points. However, as players like Jayson Tatum showed recently, you just need to get hot in the fourth quarter to make a difference in the game.
Murray did exactly that in the final period of Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He took matters into his own hands and dropped 23 points on his opponents who as a team only scored 24 in the fourth quarter. That included making the go-ahead three with 9:21 left on the clock. Denver would never surrender the lead after that bucket.
Murray would then go on to make his next three attempts from beyond the arc, the last of which gave them a 99-87 lead with 4:57 left to go.
While the Lakers would cut the deficit to as close as 101-99 in the closing minutes of the game, Murray was unfazed as he made 7 of 8 free throws over the final 49.1 seconds of the game. Today’s performance was Murray’s fourth career 20+ point fourth quarter, which is the most any NBA player has done in the last 25 years.
Murray didn’t do it alone, of course. Nikola Jokic added another triple-double to his postseason tally with 23 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals. While Jokic turned the ball over five times, he was a huge net positive in the game. A total of five Nuggets scored in double figures.
The Lakers are once again going to have to look and the mirror and wonder where things went wrong. They almost completed a big comeback in Game 1 and this time were the ones to blow an 11-point third quarter lead. Their role players are working hard, with Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura combining for 43 points. However, Anthony Davis had a much quieter game with 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. LeBron James almost had a triple-double with 22 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists but both he and Davis missed a number of three-point attempts in the fourth quarter that may have been ill-advised.
D’Angelo Russell also struggled, finishing with 10 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block while shooting 3 of 8 from the field. His most notable play was a flagrant one in the first half against Murray.
Now, holding the 2-0 lead and having protected home court, the Nuggets will be looking forward to trying to steal at least one game in LA. They’ve shown that they can hold onto the lead or come roaring back from a big deficit, so they’ll be entering Game 3 with supreme confidence.