Canada’s Jamal Murray scored 33 of his 42 points in a second half where he played every minute and the Denver Nuggets avoided elimination by beating the Utah Jazz 117-107 on Tuesday night in Game 5.
Murray, from Kitchener, Ont., was unstoppable down the stretch in nearly matching his 50-point effort in Game 4. He hit 17 of 26 shots and had eight assists, including a pass to Nikola Jokic for a 3-pointer with 23.6 seconds remaining that sealed the win.
“Whenever he’s like that we are winning the game or we are really close,” said Jokic, who also didn’t sub out in the second half. “That’s what we need from him.”
The dynamic tandem of Murray and Jokic clearly weren’t ready to leave the NBA bubble just yet. Jokic had it going early as he scored 21 of his 31 points in the the first quarter.
Murray took over late after his team fell behind by as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
“We’ve all got a will to win. Simple as that,” explained Murray, who played through a bruise on his knee. “That can carrying you. That can take you places.”
Jamal Murray 🌪 <a href=”https://t.co/cgrCZ1V9Rt”>pic.twitter.com/cgrCZ1V9Rt</a>
With the game tied at 101, Murray scored nine straight for Denver to put the Nuggets up by nine with 1:20 to go.
Donovan Mitchell finished with 30 points while wearing a pair of bright, multicolored shoes. The sharpshooter is averaging 37.6 points over the five games.
Reserve Jordan Clarkson added 17 points and Joe Ingles found his rhythm with 13. Ingles had a combined two points in the previous two games.
“I thought at some level, we just lost our composure when we were ahead,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Oftentimes, when a team’s making a run you get a little distracted, and that’s when we have to come together even more. Our guys know that, and we’ll come out ready to play the next game.”
Greek Freak in rarefied air
Giannis Antetokounmpo was voted NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday, becoming the fifth player to win that award and MVP in a career.
The Milwaukee Bucks all-star, who was MVP last year and is the favourite to repeat this season, ended the two-year reign of Utah centre Rudy Gobert as defensive player of the year.
Antetokounmpo received 75 first-place votes from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, finishing with 432 points. Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis was second (200 points; 14 first-place votes) and Gobert (187 points; six first-place votes) third.
He led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record and helped them limit opponents to 101.6 points per 100 possessions, the league’s top defensive rating, as of March 11. Voting was conducted on games through then, before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At 6-foot-11, Antetokounmpo is able to handle a matchup with any frontcourt player, especially because the Bucks also have 7-footer Brook Lopez behind him at centre.
Milwaukee allowed only 96.5 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo on the court, giving him the lowest defensive rating among the more than 300 players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game.
The Bucks were holding opponents to an NBA-low 41.3% shooting from the field when the season was suspended and Antetokounmpo often ended up with the shots that were missed. He was leading the league with 11.5 defensive rebounds per game, while also averaging a little more than a steal and block.
He became the first Bucks player to win Defensive Player of the Year since Sidney Moncrief, who earned the first two that were awarded in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons.