Updated: Oct 9
Denver's patience with Jamal Murray has paid off, as he is looking like a superstar in the making.
To Nuggets fans, Murray's development has been a maddening process over the last few years. In Game 1 of last year's first-round playoff matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, he went 8-for-23 from the field, a disappointing 34.8%. To make matters worse, he failed to make a single 3-pointer out of his six attempts and did not record a single assist. The following game, the young point guard didn't make a single basket through three quarters. His team was on the ropes, in danger of traveling to San Antonio down 0-2.
And that's when Jamal Murray exploded.
In the fourth quarter alone, he scored 21 points, dragging Denver to a win and tying the series. One would think that this scoring outburst would propel him into the next game with confidence, right? Not so fast.
Guard Derrick White shut Murray down in Game 3, holding him to just six points, two assists, a single rebound, and four turnovers. Just as he was getting into a rhythm, he ran into a brick wall.
This year's regular season's stats for the "Blue Arrow" look eerily similar to those of the 2018-19 season. Fans have been left to wonder when, and if, he will take the leap to All-Star status.
Murray has hinted towards that status in the Orlando playoffs. He dropped 50 points in a narrow Game 4 loss to the Utah Jazz, only to follow that performance up with 42 points on 65% from the field. Once again, with his team's back against the wall, he delivered.
So why should these two games suggest a breakout waiting to happen? Firstly, Murray's efficiency during the playoffs so far has been extremely encouraging. Over Denver's five games so far against the Jazz, he has shot 55.7% from the field and over 52% from 3-point range. Additionally, Murray has kept the ball in his hands, boasting a 15:0 assist-to-turnover ratio in Games 4 and 5 combined. According to StatMuse, he is the only player with a 40-8-8 playoff game and 0 turnovers since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1983. That's some elite company to be with.
Additionally, his chemistry with Nikola Jokić has proved problematic for opposing defenses. Murray and Jokić in the pick-and-roll have stunned the Jazz so far, utilizing a blend of midrange shots off screens and passes to open shooters in the corners. This has also created mismatches in the post for Jokić to take advantage of, as his bag of tricks is top-notch.
Denver head coach Michael Malone said himself that Murray "embraces the moment" and is "turning into a superstar on the biggest stage." It's true: putting up some of the biggest performances of his career in the playoffs is no small feat. All that's left for him is playing with consistency, looking for his shot at any given opportunity. Nikola Jokić handles the primary playmaking duties, and Murray acts as the scoring punch.
If Jamal Murray can keep putting the pieces together, the rest of the league has a Denver problem on their hands.