Consistency is Key for Jamal Murray, an X-Factor for Denver
The Nuggets will ultimately go where Nikola Jokić takes them. The first-time All-Star is averaging MVP-level numbers this season and has been the driving force for the 43-21 Nuggets.
However, one man can never do it alone, especially in the playoffs. Enter Jamal Murray, the third-year point guard that can carry the offense with his dynamic scoring ability.
Like most young guards in the NBA, Murray has struggled at times with consistency during his brief career. However, it’s undeniable that Murray possesses that “it” factor, something he uses to takeover games with his scoring. There are also signs that Murray is beginning to figure it out on a night-to-night basis, as he has scored at least 19 points in five-straight games, the first time he has done so in his NBA career.
“The main thing is just staying consistent and knowing where your shots are going to come from, and being ready to shoot it,” said Nuggets power forward Paul Millsap, a 13th-year veteran. “Jamal has been a lot calmer these last few games in his shot-making and ability to take the next shot. As long as he continues to do that, he's going to be fine.”
Murray is averaging 18.3 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 37.4 percent from three. Murray is Denver’s second-leading scorer on the season and has stepped up his production since the All-Star break, averaging 19 points per game while knocking down 40.7 percent of his 3-point attempts.
That level of production is exactly what the Nuggets will need down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs, and if his recent play is any indication, the 22-year-old is up for the task.
“I think you’re seeing a young player who is growing up and maturing, who is still developing and finding ways to be more consistent,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone pointed out amidst Murray’s strong scoring run.
Murray only needs to see a shot or two fall before he is quickly burying jumper after jumper, and his coach is certainly aware of that. "Jamal is one of those guys when he makes one shot, he starts shooting into a big basket.” Malone said after the team’s close loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
In that game, Murray torched the defense to the tune of 14 fourth-quarter points, with 12 of those coming from beyond the arc.
In fact, Denver is 15-3 this season in games in which Murray knocks down at least three 3-pointers, highlighting how valuable his scoring bursts can be on a game-to-game basis.
When Murray is in a rhythm, he will use his strong footwork to dance around screens or dribble his way into quality 3-point attempts, just as he did late in the fourth quarter against San Antonio.
Murray has also developed a strong chemistry with Jokic, allowing him to navigate around the court and read the defense to get open for a quality pass from his big man.
Murray and Jokic have used their two-man game to catch defenses off-guard for several seasons now, and it only enhances the contributions from both players when they are on the court together. The duo of Murray and Jokic is +258 on the season, the second-highest plus/minus for any duo on the team (the duo of Millsap and Jokic tops the list at +296).
Denver’s offense has struggled at times since the All-Star break, ranking just 16thin the league in that stretch. However, Murray’s play since the break has been a bright spot. When the third-year guard has been on the floor over the past seven games, Denver’s offensive rating jumps from 109.4 to 116.8.
These strong numbers reflect Murray’s importance to the Nuggets’ offense. Come playoff time, expect Murray to utilize his scoring abilities and strong connection with Nikola Jokic to be a driving force for Denver’s offense night in and night out.