‘In the biggest moment, he rises’: Canada’s Jamal Murray delivers again for Nuggets

‘In the biggest moment, he rises’: Canada’s Jamal Murray delivers again for Nuggets

Taped to the wall beside Jamal Murray’s stall in the Denver Nuggets’ locker-room is a picture of Bruce Lee with a quote from the martial arts legend.

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do,” it reads.

The Canadian guard followed the credo to perfection Monday night at Ball Arena, fighting through a left calf strain to deliver a performance to remember.

Murray’s 14-footer with 3.6 seconds left was the difference as Denver beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 to complete a five-game win in the first-round NBA playoff series.

“Those are shots you dream of as a little kid,” Murray said. “That you practise in the backyard and at the playground.”

After the game, a satisfied Murray sat down at his stall and exhaled. He pulled off the black compression sock from his left leg and snipped off the white tape that was wrapped around his lower shin and ankle.

“I just wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I wasn’t able to play in this game,” he said.

Teammates still buzzing at the late-game dramatics came by for high-fives and fist bumps. The ball from Murray’s game-winning shot in Game 2 — dubbed “The Shot at 5280,” a Mile High City reference to the number of feet in a mile — was stationed behind him at his locker.

He could end up with quite a collection if he keeps this up.

“Big shot after big shot,” said guard Christian Braun, seated at the adjacent stall. “He wants the big moment. We trust him with the big moment. We know he’s going to take those shots and hit them.

“This is what he does. Playoff time is when he rises.”

Sellout crowd roared for Murray

The sellout crowd roared when Murray was announced as a starter before the game and he set the early tone. He hit Denver’s first jumper, first three-pointer and first free throw as he settled in and got his legs warm.

Murray took a rest late in the period and was the first player out at midcourt to high-five his teammates when Reggie Jackson hit a 19-footer at the buzzer to end the first quarter.

“There’s a lot of things that don’t show up on the statsheet,” said Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji. “Making sure everyone does well because he cares about everyone’s well-being. He’s honestly truly a great leader and one of the best point guards I’ve ever played with.”

Murray grew up in Kitchener, Ont., worked on his game at the Orangeville Prep Basketball Academy and had a one-year stint with the Kentucky Wildcats.

Drafted seventh overall by the Nuggets in 2016, he’s now a face of the franchise with star centre Nikola Jokic. They were a lethal 1-2 punch in last year’s playoffs, leading the squad to its first-ever NBA title.

Murray averaged 21.5 points over the first four games against the Lakers but was still displeased with his shooting. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Murray talked about it with him on the flight home after a Game 4 loss in Los Angeles.

“I said we all share in the wins and we all share in the losses,” Malone said before Game 5. “So I think it’s important for people to know how competitive he is. He made that shot in Game 2 that’s going to go down as one of the best shots in Denver Nuggets history. He wants to do well for his team.

“He doesn’t want to let his teammates down and he wears that. I really appreciate and respect that about Jamal. He wants to be there for his teammates and step up like he has done countless times before.”

A few hours later, Murray was out there again proving why he’s one of the best guards in the league. He finished with five three-pointers, seven assists and a game-high 32 points.

“He’s the most competitive player that I’ve been around,” Braun said. “He pushes you, he challenges you and he challenges himself.

“In the biggest moment, he rises.”

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