The show Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell have been putting on deserves an encore.
Murray was not going to let the Nuggets’ season end on Tuesday, and Denver found just enough defense to make that a reality.
Murray took over in the second half, scoring 33 of his 42 points on the night, his swagger spread throughout the team, and Denver forced a Game 6 with a 117-107 win against Utah. The Jazz still have a 3-2 series lead, Game 6 is on Thursday night.
Murray’s back-to-back 40+ point games are impressive (he had 50 in a loss in Game 3), but more amazing is he has zero turnovers through those two games.
Murray and the Nuggets also showed a lot of heart — they were down 15 midway through the third quarter after the Jazz came out hot to start the second half. A lot of teams would have been mentally making plane reservations to Cancun and looking forward to getting out of the bubble.
Murray would have none of it. He got help from Nikola Jokic, who had 31 points, 21 of them in the first quarter. They dragged Georges Niang into every pick-and-roll when he was on the court (and yelled it out of a timeout loud enough.
More importantly, the Nuggets defensive effort was their best of the series — it wasn’t good defense, but better was enough.
In the second half, Denver finally — FINALLY!! — starting bringing Jokic out high on the pick-and-roll to cut off Mitchell’s drives, and the Nuggets started trapping him. Take the ball out of Mitchell’s hands and make anyone else beat them.
Nobody did. In the fourth quarter Mitchell still scored 12 of his 30 on the night and had this monster dunk.
But after that Mike Conley had six points (on three shots), Rudy Gobert had a bucket, and that’s it. Jordan Clarkson had been hot earlier but couldn’t hit, and the game slipped away.
Trapping Mitchell is part of what knocked the Jazz out of the playoffs the last two years. The Utah Jazz need to find their next shot creator and find a way to beat this, or Denver will force a Game 7 in this series. Because Murray is not slowing down.