The Western Conference quarterfinals matchup between the No. 3 Denver Nuggets and No. 6 Utah Jazz is going to a Game 7. After the Nuggets swept the regular-season series against their Northwest Division rivals 3-0, the Jazz took a 3-1 series lead — only for the Nuggets to tie the series.
While the second-seeded LA Clippers await the winner for a Game 1 that would be played Thursday, the Nuggets and Jazz will give us one more entry into the most fascinating duel of the playoffs so far:
Through six games, Mitchell, a 2020 All-Star, leads all players in scoring this postseason with 232 points, an average of 38.7. Right behind Mitchell is Murray, with the fourth-year pro scoring 204 total points and an average of 34.0 against the Jazz.
Forget “50-40-90.” Mitchell and Murray are shooting “50-55-90” — Mitchell has made 54.8 percent of his field goals, 55.4 percent of his 3s, and 94.6 percent of his free throws in the playoffs against the Nuggets. Murray is shooting 58.5 percent from the field, 57.4 percent from 3, and 91.3 percent from the free throw line against the Jazz.
There have been four 50-point games in this 2020 NBA postseason. That is the most 50-point games in a single postseason in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
All four 50-point games have come from Mitchell and Murray in this series. And according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the duels between Murray and Mitchell that saw them score more than 40 points apiece twice this series marks the first time that a pair of opposing players have done that multiple times in a playoff series.
And they’re both only 23 years old.
Here’s a recap of what Murray and Mitchell have done to get to this point — no pun intended.
Game 1: Nuggets 135, Jazz 125 (OT) (Nuggets lead 1-0)
Jamal Murray leads the way for the Nuggets with 36 points, as Denver takes Game 1 with a 135-125 win over Utah.
Mitchell: 57 points, 19 of 33 field goals, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 6 of 15 3s, 13 of 13 free throws
Murray: 36 points, 13 of 20 field goals, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 6 of 9 3s
Mitchell got the buckets, but his eight-second violation with 1 minutes, 46 seconds left set up Murray to help steal the win for Denver. Murray outscored Utah 18-16 in the last 6:46, including overtime.
“It’s competitive. It’s really competitive. That’s where you see the greats step out. Donovan Mitchell. I’m going to keep saying he had 57. We had more bullets. It was us, just great team performance. We did what we had to do.”
Game 2: Jazz 124, Nuggets 105 (series tied 1-1)
Donovan Mitchell leads Utah in scoring with 30 points, powering the Jazz to a dominant 124-105 Game 2 win over the Nuggets.
Mitchell: 30 points, 10 of 14 field goals, 8 assists, 1 steal, 6 of 7 3s
Murray: 14 points, 4 assists, 1 of 2 3s
The Jazz outscored the Nuggets 48-28 in the paint, but Mitchell led the perimeter attack that saw Utah make 20 3s overall. This was Mitchell’s final start at point guard in the absence of new father Mike Conley.
“He had six at halftime, and then in the third quarter we needed him to be more aggressive shooting the ball and he had opportunities. And then frankly he went back and passed it again. He’s making the right play. It shows his mentality that he’s able to do what he did the other day, and then tonight in a different situation against different coverages and adjustments, he continued to make the right play. For him, it shows what kind of player he is: He’s about winning. We defended as a team, and I think that’s what Donovan’s focus was. And then on the offensive end, again, making the right play. Really, when you have the ball and you’re making plays for other people, he cares about his teammates and he wants to win. That trumps any individual performance, and you saw that tonight.”
Utah head coach Quin Snyder
Game 3: Jazz 124, Nuggets 87 (Jazz lead series 2-1)
Donovan Mitchell picks off a Nikola Jokic pass and throws down the breakaway jam with ferocity.
Mitchell: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 8 of 9 free throws
Murray: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
The less said about this game, the better. Mitchell moved back to shooting guard, the Jazz led by as many as 39 points, and neither Murray nor Mitchell played in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets shot 37.5% from the field, and the Jazz shot 51.2%.
“We just gotta look in the mirror and come back ready to play, because they’re playing out of their mind right now, just shooting the ball really well. They’re playing with a lot of confidence, so it’s time for us to get ours back.”
Game 4: Jazz 129, Nuggets 127 (Jazz lead series 3-1)
Donovan Mitchell scores 51 points while dishing out seven assists in the Jazz’s 129-127 win vs. the Nuggets.
Mitchell: 51 points, 15 of 27 field goals, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 of 7 3s, 17 of 18 free throws
Murray: 50 points, 18 of 31 field goals, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block, 9 of 15 3s, 5 of 5 free throws
Dueling 50s! Though Murray needed a 3 at the buzzer to reach 50 in a close loss, Mitchell secured his second 50-point performance of the series in the final minute. Free throws were the difference as Mitchell made more by himself than the Nuggets did for the game (12 of 13), despite Murray’s efforts. But Mitchell also iced the game by making a 3 in Denver power forward Paul Millsap‘s face after Millsap taunted him earlier in the possession.
“How can I help my team win? Tonight, it was scoring 50; some nights it’s not, some nights it’s finding guys. And for me, just being the best player I can be. They wanna talk, that’s just more fuel to the fire for me.”
Game 5: Nuggets 117, Jazz 107 (Jazz lead series 3-2)
Jamal Murray scores 33 of his 42 points in the second half as the Nuggets outduel the Jazz in Game 5 117-107.
Mitchell: 30 points, 5 assists, 1 steal, 4 of 8 3s, 4 of 5 free throws
Murray: 42 points, 17 of 26 field goals, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 4 of 8 3s
Facing elimination, the Nuggets trailed 71-56 with 9:44 left in the third quarter. From that point until the end of the game, the Nuggets outscored the Jazz 61-36, with Murray scoring 33 of those points and handing out five assists. Murray was an offense unto himself — and it was his second straight game without a turnover.
“42, 8, and 8. The young man is growing up and turning into a superstar on the biggest stage, and couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone on Murray
Game 6: Nuggets 119, Jazz 107 (series tied 3-3)
Jamal Murray scores 50 points to lead the Nuggets to a 119-107 Game 6 win vs. the Jazz.
Mitchell: 44 points, 14 of 25 field goals, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 9 of 13 3s, 7 of 7 free throws
Murray: 50 points, 17 of 24 field goals, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 9 of 12 3s, 7 of 9 free throws
Once again, the Jazz were up double digits in a closeout game (10-point first-quarter lead). Once again, Murray was too much for the Jazz, as he made eight field goals in the paint to go with his nine 3s and seven free throws to force a Game 7. Afterward, Murray was overcome with emotion after a week that saw the NBA stop play for three days.
“My teammates trust in me; I think that’s one of the biggest things. When I go to Coach and I say, ‘Do this, do that,’ they trust me. And I try not to let them down. They believe in me, I believe in them; and we’re trying to be this 12th team to come back down 3-1. Like I said, it’s not just me; it’s making everybody better, not just me.”