Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray goes bubble mode in Game 1

Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

During the Denver Nuggets’ dismantling of the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 109-80 Game 1 win at Ball Arena, the home side was treated to the appearance of someone they haven’t seen in quite some time: Bubble Jamal.

The stat line for Jamal Murray wasn’t eye-popping—24 points on 41 percent from the field with eight boards and eight dimes—but the way he got it done was reminiscent of his otherworldly playoff performances in the NBA bubble back in 2020 that have become the stuff of NBA legend.

It was Murray’s first playoff game since that run in 2020, a span of nearly three years, so of course there were going to be some early jitters. He knew that head coach Michael Malone had his back though, and that allowed him to stay aggressive even after he missed his first four shots of the game and went on to a rough 4-for-15 shooting line through two-plus quarters.

Despite the early shooting woes, Murray showed that he still has great chemistry with Nikola Jokic, as the pair traded spicy dimes down low to one another on back-to-back possessions late in the first half. The Blue Arrow finished the second quarter strong with two sweet passes to a cutting Michael Porter Jr. for a couple of dunks and capped the first half scoring with a lovely looping layup.

It was in the 13 minutes that Bubble Jamal really made his presence felt. Murray clanked three of his first four shots of the third quarter, but when he came back on in the final minute of the third it was clear that it was not Jamal Murray but Bubble Jamal who was re-entering the game.

He wasted no time getting the crowd riled up with a nifty quick-fire alley-oop to Lob City founder DeAndre Jordan. A few seconds later, he was rallying the Nuggets faithful again after an encounter between Kyle Anderson and Christian Braun resulted in the former picking up a flagrant.

From the final minute of the third quarter to 4:15 left in the fourth quarter when Michael Malone emptied the bench with a 27-point lead, Murray scored or assisted on all but four of Denver’s 21 points. He took control of the moment and the game, and did a lot of his damage without the team’s best player on the court.

The run included another alley-oop toss to Jordan which surely brought a nostalgic tear to the eye of many a Clippers fan, as well as a solo 8-0 run for Murray. The Canadian put a bow on his postseason welcome back party with a filthy hand-switching layup that told both coaches it was time to put in the reserves.

All in all, Murray scored 15 of his 24 in the second half and hit on five of his final seven field goal attempts. The 26-year-old led the team in playing time, plus/minus, points, and field goals as Jokic was needed for just 28 minutes. These types of nights where Jokic can take on a lighter workload will be crucial for keeping the big fella fresh. If Bubble Jamal keeps making appearances like this, it could be a deep playoff run for the Nuggets.