Northwest Notes: Murray, Jordan, Thunder, Finch

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray struggled mightily through three quarters on Monday, going just 3-of-16 from the floor as the defending champions trailed the Lakers by as many as 20 points. As Tony Jones of The Athletic writes, when Murray told his teammates he wanted to affect the game in other ways by becoming more of a play-maker, they emphatically disagreed and told him to stay aggressive.

The thing about Jamal is that we know what he’s capable of,” reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic said. “We obviously would like him to make every shot, but we know that everyone goes through a bad stretch. We know what he’s capable of, and we want him to shoot the ball because we know he can make all kinds of shots.”

Murray responded by catching fire in the fourth quarter, going 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 of his 20 points, Jones notes, including a game-winning buzzer-beater over Anthony Davis (YouTube link).

There really is a playoff Jamal,” head coach Michael Malone said. “All of those commercials you see, the persona is real. He will never shy away from the moment, and all he needs is to see one go in.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • He only appeared in 36 regular season games this season for the Nuggets, but DeAndre Jordan played nine minutes off the bench in Game 1 when other players were in foul trouble, notes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “I told D.J. as we approach these playoffs, last year every time we called upon him — foul trouble, whatever’s going on in the game — he delivered,” Malone said as part of a larger quote. “He stays ready. … And I felt that he had a real positive impact (in Game 1). His size, his presence.”
  • Tyler Parker of The Ringer compares and contrasts the current Thunder squad to the era featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Oklahoma City finished with the West’s No. 1 seed in 2023/24 and is currently up 1-0 in its first-round series with New Orleans after a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game-winner in Game 1.
  • Coach of the Year finalist Chris Finch is “clearly the right coach” for the Timberwolves, argues Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune. As Reusse writes, many media members picked the Suns to defeat the Wolves in their first-round matchup after Phoenix went 3-0 against Minnesota during the regular season. But Finch has pushed all the right buttons thus far as the Wolves hold a 2-0 lead behind a suffocating defense and perhaps the best game of Jaden McDaniels‘ career.
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