After a sensational first-round series against the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has struggled to put the ball in the basket against the Los Angeles Clippers. Much of that has to do with to do with Paul George and the lengthy wings the Clippers have been able to deploy.
In the Nuggets’ seven-game series against the Jazz, Murray averaged 31.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.3 assists on 55.0 percent shooting from the field and 53.3 percent shooting from beyond arc. That includes a three-game stretch of games where he went for 50, 42, and then 50 points again while leading Denver back from a 3-1 deficit.
Through the first four games of the second round, however, Jamal Murray’s production has plummeted to the tune of 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists on just 38.2 percent shooting from the field and 34.6 percent from three.
Following the Game 4 win, George was asked about the job the Clippers have done defensively yet again on Murray and what he saw in the Jazz-Nuggets series that has allowed him to hold Murray down.
“In that Utah series, I thought they just did a great job with their player movement,” George said of the Nuggets. “With this team, we’ve got so many defenders, so many guys that like to defend. We’ve been taking that challenge to just pressure him up, stay on his body, and just take him out of the game.”
Of all the teams remaining in the playoffs, the Clippers might have the best complement of players who can defend at multiple positions well. In George, Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, and even Marcus Morris, LA has the ability to switch 1 through 4 without giving up too much in size or speed.
Paul George acknowledged that the first-round series may have taken its toll on Jamal Murray, but says the key is to not give him any room to get hot again.
“You saw it, that first series was a big emotional series with him. They were going to have some legs and some fatigue from that first series, so we just — you know, we knew that coming into this series, but we can’t give them no life. You know, a team like that, you can’t give him no life.”
Despite Murray’s struggles, Denver has been hanging in games thanks to the incredible production coming from All-Star Nikola Jokic. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough to win more than one game.
The Clippers will now enter Friday’s Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close Denver out while advancing to the conference finals. The Clippers, however, can’t get too ahead of themselves. The Nuggets just came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Jazz, and the Clippers would love nothing more than to get a few extra days to prepare for the Los Angeles Lakers or Houston Rockets. Rest days are already limited, so ending this series Friday will go a long way.
Game 5 will began at 3:30 p.m. PT, two and a half hours earlier than originally scheduled due to the Toronto Raptors forcing a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics at 6:30 p.m. PT.