The Denver Nuggets are still alive. After going down 3-1 to the Utah Jazz in their first-round series, they’ve now won two straight to tie the series at 3-3 and force Game 7. They came back from an early double-digit deficit to take Game 6 on Sunday night, 119-107.
Jamal Murray led the way again for the Nuggets, finishing with 50 points, five rebounds and six assists for his third straight game with at least 40 points. He’s the first player to pull that off in the playoffs since Allen Iverson in 2001. Nikola Jokic went for 22 points and nine assists, while Jerami Grant hit four 3-pointers en route to chipping in 18 points.
As for Utah, they were led once again by Donovan Mitchell, who had another big game himself, going for 44 points, six rebounds and five assists. He didn’t get much help, however, with Mike Conley being the only other Utah player to score more than 20 points. Now, they’ll have to regroup and get ready for Game 7.
Here are some key takeaways from the game:
We’re going to Game 7 baby
The Nuggets are still alive, and they’re heading to another Game 7. They played in two Game 7s last season, winning one in the first round against the Spurs, before losing one in the second round to the Trail Blazers. That experience will be crucial as they prepare for Tuesday night.
After winning Game 1 in thrilling fashion, the Nuggets lost three straight games, and appeared to be on their way to an early playoff exit. Since then, however, Jamal Murray has put them on his back, their defense has picked up a bit and they’ve secured two straight wins to keep their season going.
All of a sudden, it feels like Denver has all the momentum. Not only have they staved off elimination twice, but they’ve come back from double-digit deficits both times. It has to be demoralizing for the Jazz to be keep getting so close to advancing to the second round, only to fail to put the Nuggets away.
Whatever happens in Game 7, it’s sure to be entertaining if the rest of this series is any indication.
Murray can’t be stopped
Jamal Murray vs. Donovan Mitchell has been the storyline all series long, and the two young stars went toe-to-toe yet again in Game 6. Murray was once again victorious, both in their personal matchup, and in terms of the final score. And he was so despite Mitchell putting up 44 points, six rebounds and five assists, which shows just how dynamite Murray was on Sunday.
He dropped 50 points, five rebounds and six assists for his second 50-point game of the series, and his third straight game with at least 40 points. That performance matched his career high, made him the fourth player ever — along with Mitchell, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson — to have multiple 50-point games in one series, and made him the first player since Iverson in 2001 to have three straight 40-pointers.
Even more impressive is that Murray once again did it down the stretch to ensure the Nuggets got the win. Who would get them a bucket in crunch time has been a question surrounding this team for a few seasons, and Murray has made it clear over the past few weeks that he’s the man.
He scored 21 of the Nuggets’ 31 points in the fourth, including 12 straight late in the quarter to push what was a seven-point lead up to 14, and effectively end the game. This came after he scored 16 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5, and 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 1. He is not afraid of the moment, and keeps coming through for Denver. There’s no doubt that they would be sitting at home right now without his heroics.
After the final buzzer, he delivered yet another memorable and moving moment during his postgame interview. Struggling to find the words to explain his play, he pointed to his shoes, which featured the faces of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two victims of police violence, explaining “These shoes give me life. Even though these people are gone, they give me life, help me find strength to keep fighting this world.”
Murray’s performance, of course, comes after the players’ impromptu strike earlier this week, which happened in response to police shooting yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Harris returns, makes an impact on the defensive end
Gary Harris had a bit of a disappointing season, but he’s still an important part of this Nuggets rotation, and his absence was clear in the first five games of this series, especially on the defensive end. But on Sunday night, he made his long-awaited return from a hip injury, suiting up for the first time since the shutdown back in March.
He finished with four points and three rebounds in 20 minutes, which aren’t exactly eye-popping numbers, but what does fit that description is this: in Harris’ two stints on the floor, the Jazz shot 12 of 31 from the field, and turned the ball over six times. In the 28 minutes Harris was off the floor, Utah was 22 of 44 and had four turnovers. That’s a big difference!
Now, a factor in that was him playing some minutes when Mitchell was off the floor for the Jazz, but Harris was also key in limiting Jordan Clarkson to 11 points on 5 of 14 from the field. Utah’s sixth man has been an important part of their success in this series, and the Jazz missed his scoring boost off the bench in this one.