Utah Jazz superstar Donovan Mitchell smashed a bike in the tunnel while Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray collapsed in exhaustion after Game 6.
It has been a tale of two Sundays for the opposing young guards of the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. Last week, Donovan Mitchell was exuding all the confidence in the world. In the waning seconds of Game 4, he nailed a stepback 3-pointer over Paul Millsap to secure the victory.
Mitchell then proceeded to exclaim at the top of his lungs, “I want this!” with an expletive word at the end as the Jazz took a commanding 3-1 series advantage.
Seven days later in Game 6, it was Jamal Murray who had the last laugh. After dropping 50 points for the second time in the last three games of this series (he exploded for 50 points in Game 4 as well), the Denver Nuggets guard first delivered an emotional and powerful speech in which he thanked the shoes he was wearing with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor painted on the sides.
Then, Murray trotted about halfway up the ramp to the team locker room before squatting to the floor and hiding his face in his jersey. He held that position for 35 seconds before mustering up his remaining energy to stumble up the ramp.
Murray could barely stand during the interview so it was no surprise he needed to catch his breath simply walking up a ramp. The 6-foot-4 point guard has played a series-high 225 minutes so far (37.5 minutes per game).
In last year’s postseason, Murray was only on the court for at least 40 minutes twice in 14 contests. In this series alone, he has logged 40-plus minutes in four of the six games (40 in Game 1, 43 in Games 4 and 6 and 41 in Game 5). Add that to the fact that playoff games are every other day due to the truncated schedule and Murray is only 23 years old and not used to consistently heavy postseason minutes.
Meanwhile, Mitchell was singing a completely different tune. The Jazz guard stormed off the court, violently high-fived his teammates and slammed an exercise bike to the ground in anger.
Sunday night was familiar territory for Mitchell and the Jazz. They were in the exact same scenario two years ago against the Oklahoma City Thunder: they lost Game 1, reeled off three straight wins, couldn’t overcome Russell Westbrook’s heroic Game 5 performance and closed out the series in Game 6.
In that round-ending victory, the Jazz overcame 46 points from Westbrook. Unfortunately, they couldn’t prevail over Murray’s 50-point explosion, Sunday, and failed to secure this series in back-to-back games.
Mitchell has done his part: 38.7 points on 54.8 percent shooting, including 55.4 percent from long range and 94.6 percent from the free-throw line. The primary issue has been lack of offensive production from the remainder of the roster besides Jordan Clarkson (17.8 points off the bench), Mike Conley (22.8 points) and Rudy Gobert (16.5 points and 10.3 rebounds).
Now, the Jazz have a quick turnaround and must sort out their dilemma by Tuesday night for Game 7.