Murray Back to His Postseason-Breakout Self


If you stayed up late on Sunday night for the second half of Game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, you are either a basketball junkie or a diehard Nuggets or Timberwolves fan.

As the top seed in the Western Conference dominated the final twenty-four minutes, you likely noticed a giant smile across the face of the Nuggets’ starting point guard.

After missing the previous two postseason runs due to an ACL injury, Jamal Murray suited up for his first home playoff game in 1,435 days. While he was a part of the Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 “Bubble playoffs”, Murray’s knee injury suffered during an April 12 regular-season game against the Golden State Warriors would sideline the breakout point guard indefinitely.

While his absence would allow his teammates to learn more about how to play without their starting point guard, the Murray’s return to the Nuggets’ playoff lineup is a welcome sight for a team in search of their first NBA championship banner. 

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Bubble Ball and Beyond

Some hoops fans will claim that the Covid tainted “Bubble playoffs” doesn’t really count as not all of the teams were present, not all the players were present, and not all the fans were present.

And yet none of that stopped the then-23-year-old point guard from Kitchener, Ontario from erupting for the best stretch of games in his young professional career, battling All-Star Donovan Mitchell and two All-Defense-worthy candidates in Patrick Beverley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Few will forget the epic first-round matchup between the Nuggets and the Utah Jazz, when Murray piloted Denver to an overtime victory on the back of a 36-point, nine-assist effort, including 20 points in the final quarter and overtime.  Three games later, Murray would drop an incredible 50 points along with 11 rebounds and seven assists in a two-point Game 4 loss. Murray’s 92 (42 and 50, respectively) combined points in games five and six would push the series to a seventh game. 

Murray’s breakout performance wouldn’t stop after the series-clinching game as he would help the Nuggets overcome a second 3-1 series deficit against the LA Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals with a 40-point effort in game seven. While the Nuggets would eventually run out of luck against the LA Lakers, Murray would go out swinging with a 28-point game-five performance. 

Vegas Favorite

Heading into the 2023 NBA playoffs, the Denver Nuggets, owners of the best record in the Western Conference and home to two-time and potential three-peat MVP, Nikola Jokic, have been among the top-three favorites to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. 

So how did Murray fair under the spotlight in his first playoff game since Disney World? Clearly wanting to get their point guard in rhythm, the Nuggets ran a two-man game with Murray and Jokic, only to have the feisty point guard’s shot fall way short of the hoop. Battling a case of the butterflies and adrenaline, Murray would miss his first five shots in Game 1 against the Timberwolves, but the now-26-year-old quickly found his rhythm for the remainder of the game. 

After his cold start, Murray would not only lead his team in scoring but both teams with 24 points on 9-for-22 shooting, along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Clearly outplaying his counterpart, Mike Conley, who had only eight points on 3-5 shooting, Murray would also play a game-high 33 minutes. 

But it wasn’t just on the offensive end that Murray’s presence was felt as the Nuggets walked away with a lopsided 109-80 Game 1 victory. Sprinkle in a little bit of swagger, a handful of smiles, and a mountain of competitiveness and it appears as though the “Bubble playoff” version of Murray wasn’t just a one-time thing. 

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