Denver Nuggets, NBA Playoffs, San Antonio Spurs

Jamal Murray saves the Nuggets season with Game 2 explosion

The Nuggets trailed by as many as 19 points in Game 2 against the Spurs. The avoided catastrophe thanks to the late-game heroics of Jamal Murray.

The Denver Nuggets dug themselves a serious hole by dropping Game 1 to the San Antonio Spurs. They went a few shovelfuls deeper by going down by as many as 19 points in Game 2. Jamal Murray couldn’t hit the side of a barn, the Spurs were executing brilliantly and Paul Millsap and Gary Harris were the only things keeping Denver in the game.

Then the shots started falling for Murray and Denver won the fourth quarter 39-23 to take the game and save their season. It was not quite the Clippers clawing back against the Warriors but this was a huge comeback and one with enormous implications for the rest of the Western Conference. The Nuggets were on the brink of upset, now a run to the top is still very much in the cards.

Denver Nuggets

114

San Antonio Spurs

105

Takeaways

Jokic took some shots, are you happy now? Jokic had a triple-double in Game 1 but taking just nine shots was problematic when the rest of their shooters were cold and the Nuggets needed points. In Game 2, he took 15 shots and went to the free throw line six times, finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. He wasn’t the finisher, that was Murray. He wasn’t the spark, that was Millsap and Harris. As he’s been all season, Jokic was simply the rock-solid foundation everything else is built on.

What happened to Denver’s depth? The Nuggets bench was one of the biggest advantages during the regular season but it hasn’t moved the needle much through their first two games. Monte Morris has played well but Mason Plumlee found foul trouble, Torrey Craig struggled and neither Juan Hernangomez or Trey Lyles played. Rotations tighten in the playoffs and it’s possible that this advantage just won’t be there for Denver in the same way but they are at their best when they’re running up the score with starters off the floor.

Next: Defense and Kawhi give the Raptors a huge Game 2 win over the Magic

Jamal Murray is a human roller coaster. For three quarters, he was a hot mess, missing all eight of his shots and looking generally disconnected from what the Nuggets were working towards on offense. In the fourth quarter, he dropped 21 points, making all eight of his shots from the field. It wasn’t just that the ball went in the hoop (although that helped). It was making the right decision, reading the defense, chewing ups space and also knowing when to pass up a tough floater for a dump-off to a rolling Nikola Jokic. Murray scoring efficiently and making tough shots is the variable that defines the Nuggets ceiling. Tonight, it was sky high.

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