Home Denver News “He’s our general”: Jamal Murray rebounds as Nuggets seize control of first-round...

“He’s our general”: Jamal Murray rebounds as Nuggets seize control of first-round series


SAN ANTONIO — About 20 minutes after the Nuggets had seized control of the first-round series against the Spurs, Jamal Murray stood out the interview room Saturday spinning a basketball on his finger and pitching bounce passes off the wall in the corridors of the AT&T Center.

Evidently, he hadn’t feasted enough throughout the Nuggets’ rollicking second-half surge in Game 4.

Murray was paramount to their win — Denver’s first in San Antonio since 2012 — and any possibility the Nuggets had in wresting control of the series laid in the hands of the third-year point guard.

With momentum teetering in the third quarter and the Nuggets up 71-69, Murray’s 3-pointer and ferocious dunk stretched the lead to 76-69. The energy changed, and the margin never got closer than five points the rest of the game.

“It happened so quickly,” said Murray, who finished with 24 points and six assists. “I remember the sequence, but I was like … I didn’t understand the dunk. I haven’t seen it. ”

J-A-M[AL MURRAY]#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/OgqKfG4syO

— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 20, 2019

Murray’s backdoor dunk was the crescendo of a 37-point quarter, which saw Denver’s three most valuable players deflate any hope of a Spurs victory and change the trajectory of the series. Nikola Jokic scored 11 of his game-high 29 points in the period, and Torrey Craig, starting in place of Will Barton, drilled two of his five 3-pointers. The Nuggets hit 15 3-pointers as a team, which countered their 37 percent shooting in the first half.

“(Jamal) wants such a tiny trigger to step on another level, and when he steps on another level, he brings us with him,” Jokic said. “He’s our point guard, he’s our leader on the ground, he’s our general, so we follow him when he has energy that is great. ”

Murray’s defense drew the brunt of criticism after Spurs point guard Derrick White went off for a career-high 36 points in Game 3. Multiple players said they took his match — and the way the Spurs had imposed their will on the Nuggets — personally. Because of this, Nuggets coach Michael Malone switched up rsquo & his team;s assignments. Murray drew Spurs guard Bryn Forbes, while Gary Harris took White. It was Craig who had been left to nag DeMar DeRozan.

White managed just eight points while committing four turnovers. DeRozan was flustered into an ejection and 19 points. Forbes scored an inconsequential 10 points.

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“I believed (Jamal) was a lot more engaged, I thought he played a lot tougher, played a lot more urgency,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I’m not surprised because most of us know what Derrick White did last match. ”

Denver’s win is a step for this group, most of whom are taking in the postseason for the first time. Consider what they learned in steamy San Antonio. Their defense got exposed in Game 3; they had their toughness they had been taught the difference between regular- season and postseason fouls; and they weathered another first quarter in Game 4 to steal home-court advantage right back.

As the Nuggets exhaled on the plane back to Denver, not only could they rest easy with the knowledge that two wins at Pepsi Center means they’ll advance to the second round, they could take solace in the fact that this group has now won on the road in the postseason. That knowledge will pay dividends as far as they go in and this season — future runs.

“I just feel like we’ve seen it at a young age so far,” Murray said. “Going to the playoffs is a significant experience for us, and we’re learning on the fly. ”

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