The Denver Nuggets find themselves in a very solid spot three games into the NBA Finals. They currently hold a 2-1 series lead over the Miami Heat, and in game three, they took a crucial win on the Heat’s home court.
Thus far through the series, one player on the Nuggets has been the key to Denver winning games. When he is playing well, they have been in the driver’s seat, and during his off nights, the team has struggled. While many would think that this would be two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic, this is not the case.
Jokic has been playing at an extremely high level through the entirety of the Nuggets playoff run, and in turn, the NBA Finals as well. However, the team’s x-factor and the player that will be the key to them bringing home the first NBA title in franchise history is Jamal Murray.
In game one, Murray would come out of the gates hot. He finished the opening match with 26 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds. While Murray would struggle from beyond the arc, only shooting 28.6% from three, he would still put up a very solid 50.0% shooting percentage from the field. In this game, the Nuggets would take a comfortable 104-93 win.
After starting the series off on the right foot, Murray got a bit too comfortable in game two. He would finish the game with only 18 points which was his lowest-scoring performance so far in the series. With him being the second option for Denver on the offensive end, if he happens to have a slump later on in the series, it could be a death sentence for the Nuggets.
Despite failing to crack 20 points in game two, Murray would still shoot a very respectable 46.7% from the field and 37.5% from three. Along with this, he would dish out ten assists and pull in four rebounds. However, this would be the only instance in the first three games in the series that he would have a negative plus-minus, and Denver would lose the game by a final score of 108-111.
With the Nuggets taking their first loss at home in their entire playoff run in game two, many believed that the Heat would once again find a way to pull out an upset and become the first 8th seed to ever win an NBA title. However, Murray and the Nuggets would take a big step up in game three and would once again take the series lead.
This was Murray’s strongest performance in the finals thus far. He would finish the game with a 30-point triple-double, scoring 34 points, dishing out 10 assists, and pulling in 10 rebounds. Murray and Jokic would make history as the only teammates in NBA history to ever both have 30-point triple-doubles in the same game.
Along with packing the stat sheet, Murray would do it extremely efficiently. He scored his 34 points while only taking 22 shots, shooting 54.5% from the field, and being lights out from three shooting 50.0%.
The fact that Murray had a negative plus-minus in the only game that the Nuggets lost so far in the NBA Finals is an extremely interesting stat and gives a lot of validity to him being the x-factor for Denver in this series. If he can continue to light up the scoreboard and shoot efficiently, the Nuggets will be an almost impossible team to beat.
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