Nuggets Notes: Finals Appearance, Murray, Jokic

While the Nuggets were happy to beat the Lakers and earn a spot in the 2023 NBA Finals, the team remains in championship-or-bust mode, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. According to head coach Michael Malone, his squad knows its work isn’t done and won’t be content until it wins four more games.

“To beat this team in the Western Conference Finals, and to get the first sweep in franchise history, it means a lot,” Malone said. “But I speak for 17 players in that locker room and then the entire organization. We are not satisfied. We’re going to enjoy it for a moment, and it’s going to be a hell of a plane ride home. But we have more work to do.”

Regardless of when the Eastern Conference Finals end, the NBA Finals won’t tip off until June 1, so the Nuggets still have a full week to rest up and prepare for their next opponent.

As they await the winner of the Heat/Celtics series, here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Nikola Jokic has earned most of the accolades for the Nuggets this postseason, including unanimous Western Conference Finals MVP honors, but Jamal Murray‘s historic shooting performance in the series vs. the Lakers was a major factor in Denver’s win, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. Murray, the Nuggets’ leading scorer in the series with 32.5 points per game on .527/.405/.950 shooting, joined Kevin Durant as the only players in NBA history to average 30+ PPG with 50/40/90 shooting splits in multiple playoff series — Murray also achieved the feat in the 2020 bubble vs. Utah.
  • After moving from the ABA to the NBA in 1976, the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals in 1978, then repeated that feat in 1985, 2009, and 2020, but never broke through to make the NBA Finals until now. This year’s playoff run has been a salve for 47 years of heartbreak, says Nick Kosmider of The Athletic.
  • Within Kosmider’s story, Malone spoke about his first impressions of Jokic after the Nuggets selected the Serbian center 41st overall in the 2015 draft. According to Malone, he viewed Jokic as a “nice player” at the time, but not much more than that. “No one, and if they tell you any different they’re full of s—, could see that he’d be a two-time MVP, passing Wilt Chamberlain (in the record books) it seems like every other night,” Malone said. “It speaks to his dedication to his craft, getting in great shape and understanding that for him to fulfill his potential, he had to work harder.”
  • Following the Lakers’ Game 4 loss, LeBron James said this Nuggets squad is the best team he has faced in any postseason series since he arrived in Los Angeles in 2018 (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).
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