Jamal Murray’s excellence forces the Lakers into a must-win Game 3

One NBA playoff series, Game 2 is usually the forgotten game. THE series usually needs change of location before bold predictions are made. After ruling the Los Angeles Lakers for most of game 1 a Denver Nuggets fourth quarter performance left a lot to be desired in a win that was almost let go. A similar intensity to Game 7 permeated Game 2, and Jamal Murray’s excellence allowed the Nuggets to escape with a 2-0 series lead.

The Lakers’ point guards didn’t offer much offensively during the game. Anthony Davis shot 26.7 percent from the field, and LeBron James missed several shots at the rim. However, the success the Lakers had against Nikola Jokić in the fourth quarter of Game 1 was all Thursday night.

I haven’t seen Jokić this hesitant on a basketball court since the Nuggets lost the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers three years ago, and those final five quarters were much worse. In the fourth quarter of Game 1 Jokić went 0-2 from the field with two turnovers. The two-time NBA MVP shot 42.9 percent from the field in Game 2 and made 3 field goals.11 from the field in the second half. The Lakers threw the kitchen sink at Jokić and it was successful.

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Jamal Murray exits in the 4th quarter

However, the fourth quarter quickly slipped out of the Lakers’ hands. The Nuggets changed their fourth-quarter rotation, with Jokić and Murray opening the floor. Murray played the entire second half after struggling from the field for three quarters. The early momentum in Game 1, when the Nuggets set a playoff franchise record for total points scored in three quarters, got them back in the fourth quarter of Game 2, hanging 23 points on the Lakers during that time.

With Jokić in handcuffs, the Nuggets couldn’t have won this game without Murray’s offense. A player with series-clinching postseason performances. During the 2020 NBA playoff bubble, the pick-and-roll between him and Jokić was predictable, but — after falling 3-1 in the second round — it also held up. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s Los Angeles Clippers in their first season together.

The Nuggets were solid the following season, but Murray suffered a torn ACL in his right knee two and a half weeks into the regular season. The injury occurred on April 12, 2021. He didn’t play again until the 2022-2023 season, but the Nuggets gradually worked him back into his role anyway. Although he was managed throughout the regular season, he missed six consecutive games in February due to inflammation in his left knee.

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In the 2022-23 regular season Murray’s stats are noticeably down from his peak in 2020-21, but in the final four games of the playoffs played like one of the best guards in the NBA. Murray shot better than 50 percent from the field in the last two games of the Nuggets’ second-round series. Phoenix Suns, as well as in Game 1 against the Lakers. He had just a 45.8 field goal percentage in Game 2, but that was the reason this peak is due to its 85.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

Combine that with the defensive effort late in the game, which ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy noted — as James and Anthony Davis battled from the floor all night — and the Nuggets came from trailing for most of the second half to take the lead for good at 9 : 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Win or lose, this series will likely serve as Jokić’s introduction to America as one of the country’s top professional athletes. But without Murray’s excellence, the Nuggets minimum, on a shaky 1-1 position heading into Los Angeles. Instead, Murray’s team is in the catbird seat, even as the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP struggles.

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Source: https://deadspin.com/nba-playoffs-jamal-murray-nuggets-lakers-wcf-1850453863