Despite failing to take a lead in the second half and falling short in the final seconds of Saturday’s Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets certainly don’t lack confidence heading into Tuesday’s showdown.
Murray missed an uncontested midrange jumper with under 10 seconds remaining that would have put Denver ahead a point. Instead, the ball hit the back of the rim and the Spurs got the rebound, leading to free throws on the other end. With one last chance to tie the game, Murray was attempting to bring the ball up the court when Derrick White knocked it loose and got a game-sealing steal.
However, despite the shortcomings in the final minute, Murray and his teammates aren’t dwelling on the moment heading into Game 2.
"I don't think we're in panic mode or need to make a whole bunch of adjustments,” Will Barton said, following practice Monday. “We have to make a few adjustments and make shots. We need to come out ready to play from the beginning and control the game."
Making shots was a key theme discussed after practice, which was expected after the Nuggets finished 6 of 28 from beyond the arc in the 101-96 loss. The other key theme? The team’s confidence in Murray.
"I tell him (Murray) all the time to be aggressive and continue to look for his shot and everything will fall,” Barton added. “We have full confidence in him and I'm sure he'll bounce back.”
Murray finished with 17 points in game 1 but struggled from the field as he finished 8 of 24 overall and 0 of 6 from three-point range. However, Murray added six steals on the defensive end and finished +5 in plus/minus, which was the highest mark on the team.
“Overall, I think he did a good job and he had a great look to take a lead at the end of that game,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “That’s a shot that we’ll continue to trust Jamal with. I have no doubts that he’ll make it next time.”
With the backing of his teammates, Murray is more than ready to get another crack at things on Tuesday.
“I know I'm going to have another opportunity in Game 2. Everyone's going to settle down, we're going to have some fun, we're going to get out and run and be mentally strong. After all the adversity we faced in the regular season with the injuries and come-from-behind wins, we're going to bounce back and we're looking forward to it."
The Nuggets were 19-4 in the regular season when the 22-year-old guard knocked down at least three 3-pointers in a game. His teammates have complete confidence in him to turn things around offensively and lead Denver to some playoff success.