The first game of the NBA Playoffs between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets did not disappoint
Shorthanded without point guard Mike Conley, Jr., who is attending the birth of his first son in Ohio rather than take part in Utah’s opening playoff game against the Denver Nuggets (and likely most of the series), the Jazz are depending even more than usual on young superstar Donovan Mitchell. The Louisville product didn’t disappoint, dropping 50-plus and forcing overtime against the higher-seeded, and more balanced, Denver Nuggets.
Mitchell’s highlight reel is off the charts, and would’ve been the story of a Jazz Game 1 win had it not been for the efforts of Jamal Murray. Mitchell became the youngest player to score over 50 points in a playoff game since Michael Jordan in 1986, but it was Murray who forced overtime down the stretch and scored or assisted on the Nuggets’ first 16 points of that overtime period.
A duel the likes of which Murray and Mitchell put on display is usually reserved for far later than Round 1, Game 1
Overtime provided Murray the chance to put Mitchell and the Jazz away, and he did not miss.
Murray had plenty of help, with Nikola Jokic dropping 29 of his own and four other players in double-figure scoring. Mitchell, meanwhile, scored nearly 40 points more than the Jazz’s second-leading scorer. Such a performance in a losing effort is sure to leave a sour taste in his mouth, and is further proof of how valuable Conley, Jr. is to the Jazz backcourt. Sure, Jordan Clarkson had 18 points of his own as a backup guard and scoring option off the bench, but he was -13 for a reason.
Mitchell’s battle with Murray, especially down the stretch into overtime, will go down in NBA postseason lore, especially given the circumstances around this incredibly strange season. Even in defeat, that should mean something to both.