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Nuggets Notes: Malone Says Murray 'Growing Before Our Eyes'
The current temperature reading on Jamal Murray’s play is red hot. The second-year Nuggets guard is finding his shooting form, and, combined with continued growth in his all-around game, is leaving coach Michael Malone happy with his progress.
“I love the pace he’s playing with,” said Malone after Murray put up 31 points in a Nuggets’ victory over New Orleans on Friday night. “He’s got to set the pace that we want to play at, he’s got to be aggressive and he’s got to play with confidence. And you’re seeing that a lot more consistently right now. He’s starting to become a consistent starting point guard in the NBA. When he gets going like that, we put up 37 in the first quarter and he was a big part of that.”
Murray has been particularly good in November home games. He’s averaging 16.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting a sizzling 56.8 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from the 3-point line in those contests. He scored a career-high 32 points in a win over Orlando on Nov. 11, and nearly eclipsed that on Friday night.
“I think he’s looking to take the open shot, and if it’s not there then he’s looking to make a play for somebody,” Malone said. “He’s also playing aggressive. He’s not just settling for jump shots. He is putting pressure on the rim.”
And Murray continues to make positive strides in recognizing the correct play in each situation.
“If nothing is there early, now we get into that ball movement,” Malone said. “We had some great offensive possessions (against the Pelicans) where the ball was just flying around the court, generating completely wide-open shots, and that was really beautiful to watch, when you play the game the right way like we did.
“And I think he’s doing a much better job of that as of late. It’s something that he and I talk about, and he’s growing before our eyes. We’ve seen it with Nikola (Jokic), we’ve seen it with Gary (Harris), we’ve seen it with Emmanuel (Mudiay), and now we’re seeing it with Jamal Murray.”
Establishing Home Court: The Nuggets are 7-2 at home this season, getting off to the fast start at the Pepsi center that they’d hoped. Asked why the Nuggets have been good so far at home, guard Jamal Murray pointed directly to the fans.
“I’ve got to give it to our fans,” he said. “They are here, night in and night out, giving us a lot of energy, giving us a boost. We’ve had some tough opponents and we’ve come out strong and our energy. We’re playing our game, playing our pace.”
There were 16,816 fans in attendance for Friday’s game against New Orleans. And attendance is up at the Pepsi Center this season for the steadily-improving Nuggets. They are averaging 16,666 fans through nine home games, a number that is up nearly 2,000 fans over last season’s 14,770.
Four guards and a Mason: One of the more interesting lineups Nuggets coach Michael Malone put on the court against New Orleans was one with four perimeter players surrounding center Mason Plumlee.
Malone explained his thought process.
“With Mason you have, offensively first, a big guy that is a very good rim runner, but also a screener and roller,” he said. “When you have a big like Mason Plumlee, who can finish above the rim, put pressure on that rim, somebody has to help. So now, as they draw that help in, somebody is open on the back side. A great example late (in the game) Gary Harris’s last 3-point shot was produced from Emmanuel coming off a Mason Plumlee pick and roll, Mason rolling hard, being unselfish, which created an open shot for Gary Harris. When you have four shooters and playmakers on the floor, it gives you a lot of versatility on both ends of the floor.”
Finding Road Consistency: Sunday begins the first of three road games in four nights, at the L.A. Lakers, then at Sacramento, then at Houston. The Nuggets are 2-4 on the road so far this season, a mark that they are looking to improve upon.
“We have not been the same team on the road,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s our challenge moving forward. Can we go into L.A. and Sacramento and Houston and play the same way? Good teams protect their home court. Good teams also find a way to win on the road, and that’s something that we have yet to do consistently.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter