The playoffs are hard. We’re finding this out as several big-name players are continuing to underperform at the point of the season when it really matters. These failings only highlight the brilliance of Jamal Murray and his playoff runs with the Denver Nuggets.
In a win-or-go-home Game 7 between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, the team with the league’s best record didn’t show up and the duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker didn’t register a made field goal until the third quarter.
I don’t want to take away from how excellent the Mavericks played in this game; their swarming, switchable defense was everywhere in this series and it’s clear that they came out to win in this game.
However, there has to be some element of forcing the issues, especially for a scorer like Booker.
In the 2020 NBA playoffs, when the Denver Nuggets needed him most, Jamal Murray has been more than happy forcing the issue. In the 19 playoff games he played in the bubble, Murray averaged 26.5 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 50.5 percent from the floor and 45.3 percent from behind the arc.
The Nuggets came back from two 3-1 deficits and Murray hit big shot after big shot.
There were no instances of fading away during an elimination game and without Jamal’s heroics, the Nuggets are probably eliminated from the 2020 bubble before making it to the Western Conference Finals.
In fact, Jamal wasn’t just great for the Denver Nuggets, he was great for the entire league. Murray became the first player ever to record 40 points in three elimination games in the same postseason, per ESPN Stats & Info.
To close out the Jazz series, Jamal went incendiary and he was the first player to post three-straight 40-point games since Michael Jordan did in 1993. Those three games included 50 points in Game 4 and Game 6.
What’s even more remarkable about these playoff runs is how much Jamal Murray improves in the postseason. The 2020-21 season was the first in which Jamal averaged over 20 points per game (21.2) but his regular season-to-playoff leap is incredible.
Most players shave off a few points in the playoffs as the intensity gets higher and defenses start to lock in. Jamal ups his career regular season averages of 16.3 points and 3.8 assists to 24.3 points and 5.3 assists with 50-40-90 shooting splits.
While it’s a huge shame Jamal Murray wasn’t healthy enough to return to the court for the 2022 playoffs, I believe it’s the best long-term decision for the team after the former Kentucky guard revealed he didn’t feel ready to come back.
Playoff Jamal remains immortal and with the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic at the peak of his game and ready for another season as one of the league’s elite, adding one of the best playoff scorers won’t hurt. Now, all we have to do is wait.