Sports

DENVER — Jamal Murray had to sit and watch on the sidelines for the Denver Nuggets‘ last two postseason appearances.

So when he finally got back on the court for a Denver playoff game Sunday night, emotions were running a little high.

“I haven’t felt that much excitement in a minute, probably since the beginning of the season,” Murray said.

It was Murray’s first playoff game since Sept. 26, 2020, which came in the NBA bubble, and his first playoff game at home since May 12, 2019 — back when Ball Arena was still called the Pepsi Center.

After missing his first five shots Sunday night, Murray settled in and finished with a team-high 24 points in a runaway 109-80 victory in Game 1 of the Nuggets’ first-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Murray attributed that slow start to the adrenaline that was pumping to start the game.

“You want to play so good, it’s much anticipated,” Murray said. “Sometimes that can affect you too much. Gotta slow down, get my legs back and just play basketball.”

Murray said he got tired quick because of the adrenaline and his teammates told him to keep shooting. He said he started diving on the floor to try to work his way back in.

When his first shot fell, a 3-pointer with 10:06 left in the second quarter, Murray quickly looked at his hands as if to say “finally” as he jogged back up the court.

“There were a couple of times early on where he was like, ‘My fault, Coach,'” Nuggets coach Michael Malone recounted. “Don’t say ‘my bad.’ Just keep playing. Play your game. Those shots are gonna fall. I had no doubt about that.”

Malone added that the most important part of Murray’s game were the plays he was making when his shot wasn’t falling, as he finished with 8 rebounds, 8 assists and just 1 turnover.

“I’m proud of Jamal being back and I just think as he gets deeper and deeper into the playoffs, he’s only going to get better,” Malone said.

Sunday also marked Michael Porter Jr.‘s first playoff game since 2021, as he was limited to nine games total — and no playoffs — a season ago.

Porter finished with 18 points, trailing only Murray, and was one of six Nuggets players to score in double figures.

He said that Murray “looks like Jamal.”

“I told him the other day, I feel like he’s better now than before his injury,” Porter said. “I know he probably doesn’t feel it, but just his all-around game, his awareness. He had a year off where he just had to watch. So I just feel like his awareness and just the right plays he’s making — the assists, being able to play a true point guard for our team and knowing the guys around him and how to get them open.”

It was the Nuggets’ first game since last Sunday, and they looked like the more rested team as the Timberwolves, who played two play-in games last week, scored only 80 points — tied for the fewest any team had scored in a game this season, regular seasons or playoffs. Denver held Minnesota to 37% shooting.

“I just think we played really physical and played hard,” Murray said. “We’re all on the same page. We’re all communicating. We used the week really well. Everybody was locked in.”

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