FOX Sports NBA Writer
DENVER – Although Jamal Murray He didn’t feel like himself going into Thursday’s game: “Just stuffy. I had the flu … I don’t know if you’ve had an ear infection before, it’s painful,” he told FOX Sports afterward; he had still been preparing. for this moment for years.
As a kid, he used to count down the seconds on the shot clock while practicing, mimicking the voices of announcers Marv Albert and Mike Breen.
During Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, he saw Breen calling the action. He made balance against which he was playing lebron james, one of the greatest NBA players of all time. And he wanted to take the opportunity, knowing it would be something he would remember for the rest of his life.
Murray erupted for 23 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter of the game Denver Nuggets 108-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, shooting 6-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 in the final frame. He even said Breen’s signature “bang!” after making a game-breaking three-pointer with just under five minutes to go.
It was Murray’s fourth 20-point performance in the fourth quarter in the playoffs, the most by any player in the last 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He added 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals, two of which he had in the fourth quarter.
Still, Murray said he couldn’t breathe through his nose. And when he got tired, all the typical sensations were greatly exaggerated. Asked what percentage he was operating at, Murray shrugged.
“I’d probably say 80, 75 percent,” Murray told FOX Sports.
But Murray dug deep. Despite a slow start in which he shot 5-for-17 from the field through the first three quarters, he wasn’t discouraged. And when it mattered most, he shined, turning an 11-point Nuggets deficit in the third quarter into a 12-point lead in the fourth.
For Murray, who was sidelined for 18 months with an ACL injury, including missing all of last season and his team’s playoff runs in 2021 and 2022, his performance in Game 2 meant something for him
“I’ve always believed in myself,” Murray told FOX Sports. “It was about showing other people that I could still do this and play at this level and be more than what I’m doing. I’ve always had the belief. And my team has always believed in me. And they’ve supported me throughout my journey. So, I’m glad it’s finally showing on a big stage.”
Murray has been excellent for the Nuggets this postseason. He is averaging 27.1 points on 46.2% shooting from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc, a marked increase from 20 points on 45.5% shooting and a 39.% from deep that he averaged this season.
It’s a big relief for Murray, who shrugged off worries in recent years about whether he’d ever play at the same level he did on the NBA bubble in 2020, when he averaged 26.5 points to help the his team to reach the conference finals. .
Murray has silenced those critics.
And after everything his star point guard has been through, Nuggets coach Michael Malone is reveling in Murray’s success.
“This is not just coach and player,” Malone said. “I love Jamal Murray. It’s not like I’m coaching him. We’ve been together for seven years and we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. And to see him back playing at the level he’s playing at, the first thought. for me it’s a tremendous pride and very happy for him. Because I saw the dark days coming back from that ACL. For him to be here playing at the level he’s playing at is just, I’m so happy for the man. , the young man.” .
With 9:38 left and the Nuggets up 83-81, Murray helped fuel an 18-4 run. No one could stop Murray as he converted hardy buckets over the outstretched arms of James and Anthony Davis.
“It was special,” he said Nikola Jokic, who finished with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists, his 13th triple-double this postseason. “He won us the game.”
LeBron and Lakers lose to Nuggets in Game 2
When Murray struggled offensively at the top of his game, he realized he needed a mental reset. After missing a wide-open 3-pointer, he told himself to settle down. He realized he was overthinking.
After that, it caught fire.
For Murray, he’s been deeply motivated this postseason to help the Nuggets get the respect they deserve. Although they finished with the best record in the Western Conference (53-29), they have been consistently underrated. The Phoenix Suns they were the favorites to win their semifinals, and the Lakers have dominated the headlines in this one.
“We want to play and believe we’re the No. 1 seed and nobody can take that away from us,” Murray told FOX Sports. “We go to every game [thinking that]. And even when they go running like they did tonight, we can talk to each other. We can put each other on. We can criticize each other. And everything is positive. Everything is for the team and for the benefit of the team. We’re a very close group.”
Now, the Nuggets are just two wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance in the franchise’s 55-year history.
In the meantime, Murray will continue to leave it all on the court. Nothing can stand in their way, not even the flu and an ear infection.
“We know we have to keep proving ourselves until we win the chip,” Murray told FOX Sports. “Until we win the chip, we won’t get the respect we deserve.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
Get more from the National Basketball Association Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more