What Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell have done in their first-round series is unprecedented, and there is still a Game 7 to play between their Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz on Tuesday. This is must-watch NBA.
Only once has a player scored 40 or more points on four occasions in the same first-round series: New York Knicks star Bernard King’s legendary run in a five-game upset of the Detroit Pistons in 1984. Both Murray and Mitchell can match King with another 40-point outing in Game 7, and that does not even begin to describe how thrilling it has been to watch two 23-year-old guards execute at this level against each other.
We are witnessing a pair of superstars emerge in real time opposite one another. I have no idea what more they can give us, but I felt the same after Game 1. And Game 4. And Game 5. And Game 6. Murray and Mitchell are not household names in non-NBA circles, but they are emerging at the forefront of a generation of unprecedented young shotmakers. The Nuggets and Jazz are not marquee teams, but this is easily the most entertaining first-round series since the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls played seven overtimes in a seven-game set in 2009. And we get the Game 7 we deserve on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
The Jazz are favored by a single point on Tuesday according to BetMGM. The over/under on combined points in Game 7 from Murray and Mitchell is 62. They have shattered that in four of the six games so far.
Only two other players in league history had previously scored 40-plus points three times in the same first-round series: Michael Jordan (1988 and 1989) and LeBron James (2018). To say nothing of the company they now keep, Murray and Mitchell both accomplishing that feat in the same series is just downright ridiculous. No two players had ever scored 40-plus points twice against each other in a first-round series.
What’s more, there have only been 19 50-point first-round playoff games in NBA history, and four of them have come from Murray and Mitchell in this series. They have two apiece, joining Jordan as the other players with multiple 50-point games in the opening round. Jordan had six, another reason he is considered the greatest player of all time, but only once did he score at least 50 points twice in the same series (1988).
Against each other, Murray and Mitchell have both matched what Michael freaking Jordan only did once.
Both Murray and Mitchell enter Game 7 with 31 three-pointers in the series. The record in a seven-game set is 32, recorded by Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry — the greatest shooter to ever live. It is practically a foregone conclusion that either Murray or Mitchell will emerge the record-holder on Tuesday.
Now that you have the totality of their performance in proper perspective, consider how Murray and Mitchell have performed in the clutch. In 15 clutch minutes (within five in the final five minutes) in this series, Murray has amassed 32 points, five rebounds and five assists against zero turnovers. He has made 12 of his 17 shot attempts, including seven of his eight 3-pointers, and his lone free throw — a stunning 91.7 true shooting percentage on a usage rate of 44.7 percent. He has essentially had the game of someone’s life condensed into three five-minute stretches of the most pressure-packed basketball one can imagine.
And Mitchell has nearly matched Murray shot for shot. The Jazz star has scored 29 points on 76.2 percent true shooting (6-12 FG, 2-3 3P, 15-16 FT) in those same 15 minutes — and landed on the losing end in two of the three games. Nobody else in these playoffs has more than 18 clutch points (hi, Chris Paul). There are entire postseasons when no one scores more than 30 clutch points. Only Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Murray did it last season, and it took them an average of 49.4 minutes. Harden’s 63.4 true shooting percentage was the most efficient. (Murray was second at 59.8 percent.)
Just look at these four duels ...
Game 1: Nuggets 135, Jazz 125 (OT)
Murray: 36 points (13-20 FG, 6-9 3P, 4-4 FT), nine assists, five rebounds
Mitchell: 57 points (19-33 FG, 6-15 3P, 13-13 FT), nine rebounds, seven assists
Game 4: Jazz 129, Nuggets 127
Mitchell: 51 points (15-27 FG, 4-7 3P, 17-18 FT), seven assists, four rebounds
Murray: 50 points (18-31 FG, 9-15 3P, 5-5 FT), 11 rebounds, seven assists
Game 5: Nuggets 117, Jazz 107
Murray: 42 points (17-26 FG, 4-8 3P, 4-4 FT), eight rebounds, eight assists
Mitchell: 30 points (11-23 FG, 4-8 3P, 4-5 FT), five assists, two rebounds
Game 6: Nuggets 119, Jazz 107
Murray: 50 points (17-24 FG, 9-12 3P, 7-9 FT), six assists, five rebounds
Mitchell: 44 points (14-25 FG, 9-13 3P, 7-7 FT), six rebounds, five assists
Murray and Mitchell are not just on fire. They are emerging from it with dragons on their shoulders. And both are about to play one of the most important games of their young careers, a full 48 minutes of clutch. You may not even need to get the popcorn ready for Game 7. It could start popping at the sight of them.
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