DENVER — After Nikola Jokic’s stellar performance in Game 1, his offensive partner Jamal Murray stole the spotlight Thursday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals series.
Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter as the Denver Nuggets rallied for a 108–103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, putting them ahead 2–0 in the series.
“He was special,” Jokic declared. “He practically won the game for us.”
Murray missed 12 of 17 shots in the first three quarters but found his target in the fourth, going 6 of 7, including four 3-pointers. He started a 15–1 run that gave Denver a 96–84 lead.
“He made shots on the edge of the clock,” lamented LeBron James.
“We kept our guard up for 24 seconds and he hit two great shots, one over (Anthony Davis) and one over me. He was on fire on 3-pointers in the final quarter. I’m not surprised, he’s done it before. Sometimes in the league it’s not worth it to fail”.
Overall, Denver made seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter after cumulatively making seven in the previous quarters.
Murray said, “If I had hit him in the first half, it would have been a lot easier.”
Jokic had 23 points, 17 rebounds and a dozen assists a day after ESPN event reporter Lisa Salters awkwardly admitted she had never seen the two-time MVP before the opener, in which the Serb’s 34 points, There were 21 boards and 14 assistants.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after game 2, “For those who don’t know him, he already has 13 triple-doubles on the season.”
“It’s amazing what he does night after night on the biggest stage in the world.”
Regarding Jokic, Malone downplayed the offense to the Serb and his teammates: “It’s nothing new to us.”
Malone was very upset that the Lakers attracted everyone’s attention.
“We won the first game and everyone talked about the Lakers,” he said. “Let’s be honest, the national narrative was ‘Look, the Lakers are good. ‘” They are 1-0 down but something must have happened to them. No one talked about Nicola’s historic performance. He already has 13 triple doubles (post season), third all time. What he’s doing is amazing.”
The Nuggets had never been so close to reaching the NBA Finals in their history.
Game 3 will be played on Saturday night at the Crypto.com Arena, where James and the Lakers are 8-0 on the post-season.