It has an eventful playoff first round in the West so far with all but four teams looking to secure the two remaining spots in the next round. After six impressive games, it is level between Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. The encounter has also seen two of the league’s talented young stars Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, go head to head. After going behind 3-1 against Utah Jazz after the first four games, Denver Nuggets have managed to pull off a massive turnaround and tie the series 3-3 with a seventh and final deciding game remaining.
The Nuggets began the first game of the series with a morale-boosting 135-125 overtime win. However, the Nuggets failed to keep the momentum going, losing the next three games of the series 124-105, 124-87, and 129-127, respectively. In those three games, the Nuggets were abysmal and struggled to impose themselves on their opponents. The tide will soon turn to their side as a 117-107 win in Game 5, and another impressive 119-107 win in Game 6 ensured that the Nuggets prolong their stay in the playoffs. The win for Denver Nuggets in Game 6 also means they are just a game away from progressing to the Western Conference Semi-Finals for a showdown against Los Angeles Clippers.
Ahead of the final game, we take a look at some of the talking points from the series so far.
Jamal Murray continues his hot streak
It has been an excellent postseason for Nuggets Point Guard Jamal Murray, who has proven to be the difference-maker and standout performer.
In Nuggets’ first six games in the first round, Murray has averaged 34.0 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, and an additional 6.7 assists per game. He has also recorded 58.5% for Field Goal Percentages and 57.4% for 3-Point Percentages.
In Game 6 against Utah Jazz, Jamal Murray recorded 50 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Murray scored 25 points in the first half of the game on 9-of-13 shooting and finished the second half on 17-of-24 shooting from the field. He scored 21 of the Nuggets’ 31 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-8 shooting, including five three-pointers and 12 consecutive points late in the quarter to increase the Nuggets’ seven-point lead to 14 and ensure victory. Murray’s impact in the fourth quarter has been significant in the Nuggets’ first two victories as he scored an impressive 16 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5.
He also scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 1, proving he is not afraid to step up at crucial moments of games.
His 50-point haul in Game 6 was Murray’s second 50-point game of the series, and his third consecutive game he has finished with at least 40 points. Murray’s 50 points from Game 6 also saw him match his career-high number for points. Murray also wrote his name in the history books as the fourth player ever alongside Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Michael Jordan, and Allen Iverson to record multiple 50-point games in one series.
He also joined Michael Jordan as the only two players to record three consecutive 40-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist games in postseason history after recording 50 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists in Game 4 in addition to his 42 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in Game 5.
Murray also became the first player since Iverson in 2001 to record three consecutive 40-pointers. Since Game 4, Murray has averaged an incredible 47.3 points per game on 64.2 percent shooting.
There is no doubt that without Murray in the team, the Nuggets wouldn’t still be in contention to qualify for the next round. If Murray continues his excellent form in the last game against the Jazz, the Nuggets could advance without an emphatic victory and become a challenging prospect for any opponent.
Gary Harris’ return brings improvement to the Nuggets’ defense
It has been a difficult season for Nuggets’ Shooting Guard Gary Harris, who has struggled for form and maintain his fitness. After being on the sidelines with a hip injury, he sustained in March, Harris returned to action for the first time in Game 6. Even though he finished the game with four points and three rebounds in 20 minutes, Harris’ presence on the court brought a defensive improvement that was absent in the first five games against Utah Jazz.
With Harris on the court, Utah Jazz managed to shoot only 12 of 31 from the field and turn the ball over on six occasions. In the 28 minutes with Harris absent on the court, Utah Jazz managed to shoot 22 of 44 and record four turnovers. Harris also limited the impact of Jazz’s sixth man Jordan Clarkson, restricting him to only 11 points on 5 of 14 from the field and 35.7 percent shooting.