DENVER – Stop and listen. Denver Nuggets star guard Jamal Murray has a message for the NBA world. Put some respect on his name.
“I don’t think I get enough respect as I should be,” Murray told Andscape on Thursday night. “I’m better than a lot of players in the league. Every time I see rankings of guys I think, ‘Man, that is crazy.’ Maybe it’s because I have been out for so long. But if we win the chip, it changes everything.”
Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nuggets to a 108-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals at Ball Arena. The Nuggets took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that is moving to Los Angeles on Saturday for Game 3. Murray scored the Nuggets’ final 12 points of Game 2, outscoring the Lakers in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Canadian had 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field, seven made free throws and was 4-of-5 3-pointer shooting. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound guard is averaging 34 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5 made 3-pointers and 5 assists in the Western Conference finals.
It was Murray’s fourth career 20-point fourth quarter in the playoffs, the most of any player in the last 25 years.
“He was special and he won us the game,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokić said.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone talked before Game 2 about the lack of fanfare for his franchise being par for the course. If there is some national NBA talk about Denver, it mostly centers on Jokić, a two-time NBA MVP.
“We’re the Denver Nuggets. We’re used to that. Even when we win, they talk about the other team,” Murray said.
But while Jokić is a five-time NBA All-Star, Murray — who had a strong regular season, averaging 20 points, 6.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds — has yet to be named an All-Star and was snubbed this season even though the Nuggets had the best regular-season record in the Western Conference.
“He is definitely one of the best guards in the league,” Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., told Andscape. “He has not been named an All-Star yet, but he is one of the best players in The Association. The Association is about getting buckets. He can hit tough shots down the stretch with the best of them. He is showing up with playoffs, obviously.
“People thought that [the] NBA Bubble run [in 2020] was a fluke. But I told him I think he is better now than he was back then. He sees the game better. So, I’m happy for him.”
Murray said that what has held his stardom back the most is injuries.
Murray first made a big name for himself during the 2020 NBA bubble playoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. In the Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference finals, Murray averaged 26.5 points per game in 19 games, including two 50-point games in a first-round series against the Utah Jazz and 40 points in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
But on April 12, 2021, Murray suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee against the Golden State Warriors. Murray missed the entire 2021-22 season recovering from his knee injury. Missing the postseason for two straight years was “tough” for him. But Murray rebounded to play in 65 regular-season games this season.
When asked what got him through the dark days of his knee injury, Murray said, “Looking forward to these days. And putting the work in while I was down bad. I wanted to put the work in then so I can shine now. I didn’t ever want to regret that I didn’t lift when I didn’t want to or whether I should have done a little more. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for this and be ready for this.”
Malone said: “To see him back playing at the level he’s playing at, the first thought for me is just tremendous pride and just so happy for him. Because I saw the dark days coming back from that ACL.”
In his first postseason action since 2020, Murray is averaging 26.3 points per game. The playoff buzz this time, however, has usually highlighted Jokić, the Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and center Anthony Davis, the Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler and the Boston Celtics forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
But there is one way for Murray to get major respect put on his name in the postseason: Get the Nuggets to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
With two more wins needed against James and the Lakers, Murray isn’t jumping ahead.
“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Murray said. “We want to focus on the moment. Focus on each game. If we get to the Finals, we get to the Finals and make history. But we have more to do to win the chip and shut everybody up.”