Versus: Recapping the duel between Mitchell and Murray

NBA

The Western Conference quarterfinals matchup between the No. 3 Denver Nuggets and No. 6 Utah Jazz is going to a Game 7. After the Nuggets swept the regular-season series against their Northwest Division rivals 3-0, the Jazz took a 3-1 series lead — only for the Nuggets to tie the series.

While the #2 LA Clippers await the winner for a Game 1 that would be played Thursday, the Nuggets and Jazz will give us one more entry into the most fascinating duel of the playoffs so far:

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray versus Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.

Through six games, 2020 All-Star Mitchell leads all players in scoring this postseason with 232 points, an average of 38.7 per game. Right behind Mitchell is Murray, with the fourth-year pro scoring 204 total points and an average of 34.0 per game against the Jazz.

There have been four 50-point games in this 2020 NBA postseason. That is the most 50-point games in a single postseason in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

All four 50-point games have come from Mitchell and Murray in this series. And according to Elias Sports Bureau, Murray and Mitchell’s duels that saw them score more than 40 points each twice this series marks the first time that a pair of opposing players have done that multiple times in a playoff series.

Here’s a recap of how Murray and Mitchell have done to get to this point — no pun intended.

Game 1: Jazz 125, Nuggets 135 (OT) (Nuggets lead 1-0)

Mitchell: 57 points, 19/33 field goals, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 6/15 3s, 13/13 free throws
Murray: 36 points, 13/20 field goals, five rebounds, 1 steal, 6/9 3s

Mitchell got the buckets, but his fourth quarter eight-second violation with 1:46 left set up Murray to help steal the win for Denver; Murray outscored Utah 18-16 in the last 6:46 of the game, including overtime.

“It’s competitive. It’s really competitive. That’s where you see the greats step out. Donovan Mitchell. I’m going to keep saying he had 57. We had more bullets. It was us, just great team performance. We did what we had to do.”

Jamal Murray


Game 2: Jazz 124, Nuggets 105 (Series tied 1-1)

Mitchell: 30 points, 10/14 field goals, 8 assists, 1 steal, 6/7 3s
Murray: 14 points, 4 assists, 1/2 3s

The Jazz outscored the Nuggets 48-28 in the paint, but Mitchell led the perimeter attack that saw Utah make 20 3s overall. This was Mitchell’s final start at point guard in the absence of new father Mike Conley.

“He had 6 at halftime, and then in the 3rd quarter we needed him to be more aggressive shooting the ball and he had opportunities. And then frankly he went back and passed it again. He’s making the right play. It shows his mentality that he’s able to do what he did the other day, and then tonight in a different situation against different coverages and adjustments, he continued to make the right play. For him, it shows what kind of player he is: he’s about winning. We defended as a team, and I think that’s what Donovan’s focus was. And then on the offensive end, again, making the right play. Really, when you have the ball and you’re making plays for other people, he cares about his teammates and he wants to win. That trumps any individual performance, and you saw that tonight.”

Utah head coach Quin Snyder


Game 3: Nuggets 87, Jazz 124 (Jazz lead series 2-1)

Mitchell: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 8/9 free throws
Murray: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

The less said about this game, the better. Mitchell moved back to shooting guard, the Jazz led by as many as 39 points, and neither Murray or Mitchell played in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets shot 37.5 percent from the field, while the Jazz shot 51.2 percent.

“We just gotta look in the mirror and come back ready to play, because they’re playing out of their mind right now, just shooting the ball really well. They’re playing with a lot of confidence, so it’s time for us to get ours back.”

Jamal Murray


Game 4: Nuggets 127, Jazz 129 (Jazz lead series 3-1)

Mitchell: 51 points, 15/27 field goals, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 4/7 3s, 17/18 free throws
Murray: 50 points, 18/31 field goals, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block, 9/15 3s, 5/5 free throws

Dueling 50s! While Murray needed a 3 at the buzzer to reach 50 in a close loss, Mitchell secured his second 50-point performance of the series in the final minute. Free throws were the difference, as Mitchell made more by himself than the Nuggets did for the whole game (12/13), despite Murray’s efforts. But Mitchell also iced the game by making a 3 in Denver power forward Paul Millsap‘s face after Millsap taunted him earlier in the possession.

“How can I help my team win? Tonight, it was scoring fifty; some nights it’s not, some nights it’s finding guys. And for me, just being the best player I can be. They wanna talk, that’s just more fuel to the fire for me.”

Donovan Mitchell


Game 5: Jazz 107, Nuggets 117 (Jazz lead series 3-2)

Mitchell: 30 points, 5 assists, 1 steal, 4/8 3s, 4/5 free throws
Murray: 42 points, 17/26 field goals, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 4/8 3s

Facing elimination, the Nuggets trailed 71-56 with 9:44 left in the third quarter. From that point until the end of the game, the Nuggets outscored the Jazz 61-36, with Murray scoring 33 of those points and handing out five assists. Murray was an offense unto himself — and it was his second straight game without a turnover.

“42, 8, and 8. The young man is growing up and turning into a superstar on the biggest stage, and couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone on Murray


Game 6: Nuggets 119, Jazz 107 (Series tied 3-3)

Mitchell: 44 points, 14/25 field goals, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 9/13 3s, 7/7 free throws
Murray: 50 points, 17/24 field goals, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 9/12 3s, 7/9 free throws

Once again, the Jazz were up double-digits in a closeout game (10-point first quarter lead). Once again, Murray was too much for the Jazz, as he made eight field goals in the paint to go with his 9 3s and 7 free throws to force a Game 7. Afterwards, Murray was overcome with emotion after a week that saw the NBA stop play for three days.

“My teammates trust in me; I think that’s one of the biggest things. When I go to Coach and I say, “Do this, do that,” they trust me. And I try not to let them down. They believe in me, I believe in them; and we’re trying to be this 12th team to come back down 3-1. Like I said, it’s not just me; it’s making everybody better, not just me.”

Jamal Murray

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