Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell are putting on a show to open the NBA playoffs

NBA Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
NBA Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell continue to amaze

The best and most competitive series of this first round of NBA playoff action has been between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray have been putting on absolute offensive masterpieces throughout the first six games.

Mitchell and Murray have made NBA history becoming the first duo of opposing players to score at least 50 points twice in the same series. This series has been full of ups and downs proving that each game is its own singular entity. However, with the Nuggets winning the previous two games they may have the momentum going into the pivotal Game 7 on Tuesday.

Jamal Murray has really grown up in these playoffs going from a decent offensive point guard to an elite point guard capable of taking over games, especially when it matters most in the fourth quarter. Looking at the fourth quarter scoring for Murray in the Nuggets’ three wins, the talented guard has put up 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 1, 16 in the fourth quarter of Game 5, and 21 fourth-quarter points to cap off an epic 50-point performance in Game 6.

Murray is clearly playing for more than just himself as he was overcome with emotions during the postgame interview with images of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on his basketball shoes. After the brief NBA boycott in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, the NBA continues to shed light on the continued racial injustice and police brutality that plagues America.

These games allow fans to appreciate these athletes for their skills on the court and for their powerful voices off of it.

The Nuggets still run many of their offensive sets through Nikola Jokic, but Murray has become their go-to scorer and has developed great on-court chemistry with Jokic allowing him to become a great off-ball mover and is very adept at creating his own shot. Mitchell has been equally brilliant with the ability to hit the pull up 3 and get into the lane to draw fouls at will.

Both Mitchell and Murray have treated fans to amazing offensive games and have even come up short despite their heroic efforts with Mitchell scoring 57 in a Game 1 loss, 44 in a Game 6 loss, and Murray scoring 50 in a Game 4 loss.

Murray has clearly improved his game during the hiatus and seems to have developed the killer instinct that all great scorers have. Murray is great at crossing up his defender in order to free himself up for a 3-point attempt. Murray may not be the quickest, but he is shifty and crafty enough to create the space he needs to get his shot off. Mitchell is a more forceful player that uses explosive movements and a high vertical to get to his spots.

Mitchell continues to blossom into a three-level scorer that can take over games with his powerful drives to the basket or stretch the defense with his accurate 3-point shooting. Both Murray and Mitchell have proven more than capable of hitting a step-back 3 and can go off for scoring binges at any time.

While Mitchell doesn’t have the supporting cast that Murray has, the return of Mike Conley from paternity leave, the two-way play of Joe Ingles, and the rim protection of Rudy Gobert have helped the Jazz get three wins against a more talented Nuggets team. The Nuggets have done a great job of drawing Gobert out of the paint with Jokic playing a lot on the perimeter, either shooting 3’s or initiating the offense.

The x-factor for the Nuggets remains Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. is clearly a talented young player but has yet to contribute on a consistent level. During bubble play, Porter Jr. has shown the ability to be a great off-ball cutter which is aided by the clever passing of Jokic. Porter Jr. has also shown he can be a three-level scorer and could end up being their most talented player in a few years.

However, with Murray and Jokic leading the way, Porter Jr. isn’t relied on consistently to be a 20-point-per-game scorer. While Murray was sitting out injured, Porter Jr. really showed his full offensive arsenal and reminds me of a taller Devin Booker. During regular season bubble play, Porter Jr. had 4 straight games of 37, 30, 27, and 23 points and the team went 3-1 in those games.

But, when Murray came back Porter Jr. took a back seat to him and saw his scoring dip. His best playoff game was during a Game 2 blowout loss, 124-105 when Porter Jr. went off for 28 points.

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If the Nuggets want to develop into an elite team it’ll most likely be with Porter Jr., Murray, and Jokic all averaging around 20-25 points per game. Add Bol Bol to the mix and the future of this Nuggets team is even more intriguing. Their present has also made for the most entertaining first-round series in the bubble against a worthy opponent in the Utah Jazz.