Jamal Murray Drops 42 as Nuggets Take Game 5, Fend off Elimination vs. Jazz

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2020

Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a shot during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Erhmann/Associated Press

 The Denver Nuggets' bubble has not yet been burst.

Jamal Murray lit the world on fire in the second half and Nikola Jokic added 42 points, pushing the Nuggets to a 117-107 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday to stave off elimination. The Jazz hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Murray scored 32 of his 42 points in the second half, foisting the Nuggets on his back after they trailed by as many as 15 points. 

Donovan Mitchell led six Jazz players in double figures with 30 points. Mitchell is averaging 37.6 points per game for the series. 

The Nuggets entered Game 5 on the ropes, losing six of their last seven games amid apparent internal strife between coach Mike Malone and players. 


Notable Stats


G Jamal Murray: 42 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, 1 steal

C Nikola Jokic: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists

F Michael Porter Jr.: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal


G Donovan Mitchell: 30 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal

G Mike Conley: 17 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

C Rudy Gobert: 11 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block


Gobert Still Not a Reliable Playoff Anchor

This was the worst game Rudy Gobert has played in this series. Jokic ate him for dinner the entire first quarter, forcing Gobert out of his comfort zone and breaking down the fulcrum of the Jazz defense.

Anyone who's watched Utah's postseason struggles over the previous two years know the story. Gobert gets sucked out of the paint, loses his defensive effectiveness and fails to pick up the slack on the offensive end. 

This is the existential problem with building around someone like Gobert in the modern game. When he's unable to play his game, he loses all usefulness. He can't create for himself or shoot on the offensive end, and he's too slow-footed to have an impact defensively once he steps outside the paint.

Jokic isn't fleet enough of foot to really make things miserable for Gobert on the perimeter, but games like Tuesday are Exhibit A as to why the Jazz should think long and hard about whether they want to build around Gobert long term.


Nuggets Can Still Win This Series ... If They Commit Defensively

Jokic is the best player in this series. On most nights, Murray and Mitchell can play each other to a wash. Unless Jordan Clarkson comes off the bench with a hot hand, the Nuggets have the offensive firepower to outgun Utah for two more games.

The defensive effort? Ehh. Not so much. 

The Nuggets remain a wildly inconsistent defensive team, flush with efforts that show they could perform at a league-average clip and other moments where they look like the most listless team remaining in the bubble.

The Jazz torched them to an embarrassing rate through the first four games and were doing so again through one half Tuesday. It's unclear where the newfound effort came from after the break, but Denver turned up its intensity with its season on the line and held the Jazz to 44 second-half points.

At the risk of becoming a human cliche, this largely comes down to effort. The Nuggets didn't make any wholesale changes to their scheme after the break. They just rotated harder, stayed at home and dared Utah's shaky offense to finally miss some shots. 

If that carries over to Thursday, we'll be headed for a Game 7.