With Jokić handcuffed, the Nuggets could not have won this game without Murray’s offense. A player who has some series-tipping postseason performances under his belt. During the 2020 NBA Playoffs bubble, the pick and roll between him and Jokić was predictable but — after falling 3-1 in the second round — it also put out Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s Los Angeles Clippers in their first season together.

The Nuggets were solid the following season, but Murray suffered a torn ACL in his right knee two and a half weeks before the end of the regular season. That injury occurred on April 12, 2021. He didn’t play again until the 2022-23 season, but the Nuggets still worked him back into his role gradually. While being load managed throughout the regular season, he still had to miss six consecutive games in February due to inflammation in his left knee.

During the 2022-23 regular season, Murray’s statistics took a noticeable drop from his 2020-21 peak, but in his last four playoff games, he has played like one of the best guards in the NBA. Murray shot better than 50 percent from the field in each of the final two games of the Nuggets’ second-round series against the Phoenix Suns, and in Game 1 against the Lakers. He managed only a 45.8 field-goal percentage in Game 2, but the reason it was that high was due to his 85.7 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.


Combine that with late-game effort on defense that ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy noticed — while James and Anthony Davis struggled all night from the field — and the Nuggets went from trailing for most of the second half to taking the lead for good at the 9:21 mark of the fourth quarter.

Win or lose, this series is likely going to serve as Jokić’s introduction to America as one of the best professional athletes employed in this country. But without Murray’s excellence, the Nuggets are, at minimum, in a precarious 1-1 position heading to Los Angeles. Instead, Murray has his team in the catbird seat even with the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP struggling.