Jamal Murray's 23 Leads Nuggets Past Donovan Mitchell, Jazz in 2OT Thriller

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray (27) drives the ball against Utah Jazz's Royce O'Neale and Mike Conley, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

The Denver Nuggets earned a crucial 134-132 win over the Utah Jazz in a double-overtime thriller that could have major ramifications on the Western Conference playoff race.

Coming into Saturday, the Nuggets held a two-game lead over the Jazz for the No. 3 seed in the West. The Houston Rockets are sandwiched in between the two, holding a one-game lead over Utah for the fourth spot.

The Jazz, who have lost four of their past five games, will look back on this game if it impacts their playoff seeding. They led by as many as 18 points in the first half and were up 88-79 at the start of the fourth quarter.


Notable Player Stats

  • Michael Porter Jr. (DEN): 23 points (7-of-18 FG), 11 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl
  • Jamal Murray (DEN): 23 points (10-of-25 FG), 12 Reb, 8 Ast
  • Nikola Jokic (DEN): 30 points (11-of-21 FG), 11 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Stl
  • Rudy Gobert (Utah): 22 points (9-of-16 FG), 13 Reb, 2 Ast
  • Jordan Clarkson (Utah): 19 points (5-of-9 3PT FG), 2 Ast
  • Donovan Mitchell (Utah): 35 points (12-of-33 FG), 8 Ast, 6 Reb


Porter Proving to Be Go-To Option for Nuggets

Nuggets fans get upset when their team is often left out of the conversation of Western Conference elites despite being the No. 2 seed last year and currently the No. 3 seed. One oft-cited reason is that they don't have a go-to scorer to support Nikola Jokic.

Prior to the NBA restart, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor ranked Denver as the seventh-best team in the NBA and called the club "a damn good team, folks."

The Nuggets have exciting scorers with upside, like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., but those two haven't proved themselves as being able to play at a high level from game to game.

In Porter's case, it's simply because he hasn't had the reps due to injuries and defensive issues.

Murray was playing his first official game in nearly five months and didn't have his best statistical game, but when the Nuggets needed a bucket late, they called his number.

Denver Nuggets @nuggets

THAT HESI CRAZY https://t.co/qd8fcvRDGc

Denver Nuggets @nuggets

🥶🥶🥶 https://t.co/OLGZHI7I6s

Despite trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half, the Nuggets were able to fight back in the second half. They went on a 14-2 run between the third and fourth quarters to tie the score at 90.

Porter, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime, accounted for six of those points and had buckets on back-to-back possessions.


17 in the 2nd half for MPJ... the @nuggets are within 4! 6 minutes remaining on TNT. #WholeNewGame https://t.co/b9GvtBlQIM

Boogey @BoogeyThat

Michael Porter Jr is the truth.

This is becoming a trend for Porter, who is looking more like the player everyone expected him to be at his best when the Nuggets selected him No. 14 overall in the 2018 NBA draft.

Hoop Central @TheHoopCentral

Michael Porter Jr. over his last three games 37 Points, 12 Rebounds, 75 FG% 30 Points, 15 Rebounds, 57 FG% 27 Points, 12 Rebounds, 55 FG% Future is bright for MPJ. 🔥 https://t.co/drmNjjuNgx

Jokic is an MVP candidate in no small part because of his passing ability. Porter's natural scoring touch can take full advantage of that in a way no other Nuggets player has been able to do over the past two seasons.

If this is the version of the Nuggets that is going to show up for the rest of this season, they will put themselves in the conversation with the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers at the top of the Western Conference.


Mitchell's Second-Half Surge Positive Sign for Jazz

The Jazz aren't an offensive juggernaut despite having a lot of talented individual scorers. When things are going right for them, they can look like one of the better teams in the Western Conference.

For instance, the Jazz put up 63 points in the first half against Denver. They were having tremendous success shooting from the outside, making 12 of 21 attempts behind the three-point line.

Jordan Clarkson provided a big boost off the bench for Utah's offense in the first two quarters. The six-year veteran came into today making 25.7 percent of his three-point attempts since the season restarted.


🎵🔥 The @utahjazz go 12-for-21 from deep during the first half on TNT! #WholeNewGame Jordan Clarkson: 4-6 3PM Georges Niang: 3-3 3PM https://t.co/SzVzqixE1R

But the go-to guy for the Jazz in crucial moments will always be Donovan Mitchell. The third-year guard proved to be up to the task when his team needed him the most. He was just 6-of-20 from the field with 17 points with 10 seconds remaining in regulation before coming to life.

utahjazz @utahjazz

OH?!?!?! @spidadmitchell https://t.co/Wootq8jtUh

utahjazz @utahjazz

OOOOOHHHH?!?!?! https://t.co/oqLGjnSMrr

utahjazz @utahjazz

sheesh https://t.co/1bWlY7lvjb

One of the biggest questions for the Jazz coming into the restart was how they would replace the production lost with Bojan Bogdanovic unavailable after having wrist surgery in May.

Mitchell's late return to form after a difficult start was exactly what the Jazz needed to see, despite the loss, if they want to have any hope of making a deep playoff run.


What's Next?

The Jazz (43-27) will play the Dallas Mavericks on Monday at 3 p.m. ET. The Nuggets (46-24) will play the Lakers later the same day at 9 p.m. ET.