After Nikola Jokic’s monster recreation within the opener, his pick-and-roll accomplice Jamal Murray took the highlight within the Western Conference finals Thursday night time.
Murray, from Kitchener, Ont., scored 23 of his 37 factors within the fourth quarter, propelling the Denver Nuggets to a 108-103 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2-0 lead within the sequence.
“He was particular,” Jokic mentioned. “He gained us the sport mainly.”
Murray missed 12 of his 17 pictures by three quarters however discovered his contact within the fourth, going six for seven, together with 4 three-pointers, and fueling a 15-1 run that gave Denver a 96-84 lead.
“He made pictures on the finish of the clock,” LeBron James lamented. “We guard for twenty-four seconds and he made two big-time pictures, one over [Anthony Davis] and one over me. He had his three-point shot going within the fourth. It’s no shock to me, he is accomplished it earlier than. Sometimes it is a never-miss league.”
In all, Denver sank seven threes within the fourth quarter after hitting seven all night time.
“It would have been rather a lot simpler if I had made them within the first half,” mentioned Murray, who continues to be taking part in by an earache he hasn’t been in a position to shake since Round 2.
Jamal Murray goes OFF within the 4th quarter to assist Denver safe a 2-0 lead within the WCF!<br><br>37 PTS (23 PTS within the 4Q)<br>10 REB<br>6 3PM<br><br>DEN/LAL Game 2: Sat, 8:30 PM ET | ABC <a href=”https://t.co/wZ9k5YaUCa”>pic.twitter.com/wZ9k5YaUCa</a>
Jokic added 23 factors, 17 rebounds and a dozen assists a day after ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters handed the Nuggets the no-respect card by acknowledging that she’d by no means seen the two-time MVP play earlier than Game 1, when he had 34 factors, 21 boards and 14 assists.
“For those who do not know him, he is received 13 playoff triple-doubles now,” Malone sneered after Game 2. “It’s simply unimaginable what he continues to do on a nightly foundation on the largest stage on the planet.”
As for Jokic, he disregarded the slights on him and his teammates, saying, “It’s nothing new for us.”
Malone was loads miffed by the Lakers getting all of the pub.
“You win Game 1 and all everyone talked about was the Lakers,” Malone mentioned. “Let’s be trustworthy, the nationwide narrative was, `Hey, the Lakers are superb. They’re down 1-0, however they figured one thing out.’ No one talked about how Nikola simply had an historic efficiency. He’s received 13 [playoff] triple-doubles now, third all-time. What he is doing is simply unimaginable.
“But their narrative wasn’t in regards to the Nuggets. The narrative wasn’t about Nikola. The narrative was in regards to the Lakers and their changes. So you realize, you set that in your pipe and also you smoke it, you come again and you realize what, we’re gonna go up 2-0.”
Nikola Jokic is the first participant in NBA historical past with 4 consecutive 20-point triple-doubles within the Playoffs. <a href=”https://t.co/Dlc94YaKlV”>pic.twitter.com/Dlc94YaKlV</a>
The Nuggets have by no means been this near reaching the NBA Finals of their historical past. Game 3 is Saturday night time at Crypto.com Arena, the place James and the Lakers are 8-0 within the playoffs.
Malone mentioned he reminded Murray heading into the fourth quarter to not fret over his taking pictures woes however to give attention to contributing in different methods. He heeded that recommendation, grabbing three huge boards on defence and stealing the ball twice moreover hitting four-of-five from deep and seven-of-eight from the stripe.
“Three-point line is what killed us within the fourth,” James mentioned.
Malone knew that when Murray lastly discovered the web, many extra buckets would observe.
“We all know … he simply has to see one go in,” Malone mentioned, and when that occurred, “he sort of appeared as much as the heavens and that is all he wants. And after that he is taking pictures right into a hula hoop.”
Jamal Murray factors to Mike Breen and calls “BANG” after hitting the three 🔥 <a href=”https://t.co/NkwgqB1qsK”>pic.twitter.com/NkwgqB1qsK</a>
Just like in Game 1, the Lakers did not go down simply. They pulled to a few factors on Austin Reaves’ jumper earlier than Murray sank two free throws with 12 seconds left and Bruce Brown stole the ball from James, then dribbled out the ultimate 8 seconds.
The Nuggets improved to 41-8 at dwelling, finest within the NBA, together with 8-0 within the playoffs.
James and Reaves each scored 22 for Los Angeles. Davis scored 18 after pouring in 40 within the opener and Rui Hachimra scored 21 factors off the bench.
For a lot of the night time, it appeared as if the Lakers would wrest home-court benefit from the Nuggets, who’re the highest seed for the primary time of their historical past. The Lakers gained the sequence openers at Memphis and Golden State to achieve the convention championship.
The excellent defence Hachimura performed on Jokic within the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss in Game 1 led many to consider coach Darvin Ham would begin Hachimura to attempt to stymie the Nuggets’ star centre from the beginning. But as an alternative he got here off the bench once more, scoring 17 first-half factors however simply 4 thereafter.
“Proud of our guys,” Ham mentioned. “They bounced again. We addressed a variety of the issues that we mentioned we have been going to attempt to do higher. Still received to be higher in transition D. But general the vitality was there, the hassle was there, the urgency was there, we simply caught a nasty stretch.”
And a all of the sudden red-hot Jamal Murray.