“To be honest it has been Game 7 the last two games for us so I mean it is a win or go home for us,” Jokic said after Game 6 on Sunday. “Maybe that is why we are playing so relaxed so we don’t have anything to worry about. If we lose, we are going to go home. The energy is still win or go home so we just need to give the effort. We don’t give up on the plays, rebound and just help each other. That is why we are playing really good right now.”
Playing on the brink of elimination in Games 5 and 6 seems to have brought out the best of the Nuggets and Jamal Murray. And with Tuesday’s game against the Jazz being their third straight seven-game series since last year, the Nuggets might even feel a sense of comfort as they look to become the 12th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a best-of-seven series.
“I think it’s crazy that for myself as a head coach and all of our young players, that this will be our third Game 7 already,” Denver coach Michael Malone said after Monday’s practice. “… It is something where we have been here before. Our guys understand that every possession matters and I think we will have a comfort level because of the fact that we have been here before last season and in Game 5 and Game 6.”
No Nugget has elevated his play more than Murray, who is playing on a scoring level that only players like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and series rival Donovan Mitchell have reached in playoff history. Murray scored 50 points in Game 6, making 17 of 24 shots, including 9-for-12 from beyond the arc, to go with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. It was the second time Murray scored 50 in this series, matching a feat that Mitchell also has done in this first round. Those two join Iverson and Jordan as the only players with multiple 50-point games in a postseason series, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
It’s only fitting that the Murray-Mitchell duel will be settled by a Game 7. Mitchell is averaging 38.7 points and Murray is averaging 34.0 in this series. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this would be just the 17th time in NBA history that opposing players each averaged 30 points in a postseason series and it would be the first time two scorers did so at age 23 or younger.
“Life is a weird thing, because it puts roadblocks in front of you,” an emotional Murray said on Sunday night after Game 6. “Sometimes you gotta go through it; sometimes you gotta go around it. Sometimes you gotta take a pause and look back at what you’re gonna do, have a plan.
“And I’ve just kinda put that all together, and down two starters, putting a rookie in there that doesn’t know our plays fully and where to go, stuff like that makes me be more vocal, makes me put the ball in the hoop more.”
In Game 4, Murray had 50 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. In Game 5, he had 42 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. He joins Jordan as the only players in postseason history with three straight 40-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist games.
And now Murray and the Nuggets will play in another Game 7 after beating San Antonio in the first round in Game 7 and losing to Portland in Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals last season.
“Somebody is going home tomorrow night,” Malone said. “And our plan is for that not to be the Denver Nuggets. It is going to take a great effort obviously. I’m sure they will be ready. They will make some changes. Jamal has been going crazy. And we have to try to prepare our guys as best as possible for what they may do.
“But from a mental and approach standpoint, we have to leave it all on the line. We can’t save anything. There is no tomorrow.”