Stars illuminated Game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, offering a glimpse at what could be a fun series in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Game 2 tips off Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando.
The third-seeded Nuggets outlasted the sixth-seeded Jazz 135-125 in overtime on Monday behind a huge effort from Jamal Murray down the stretch. Murray put Denver on his shoulders in the fourth quarter and in overtime, totaling 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in that stretch. He finished with 36 points and nine assists overall.
Utah kept pace with the Nuggets until overtime behind a career-best performance from Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz guard set a franchise playoff record by scoring 57 points on 19-of-33 shooting. He added nine rebounds and seven assists for Utah.
“I’m smiling because those are the games you want to be in. Those are the games that are the most fun and most competitive,” Murray said. “Those are the fights, the competitive spirit that you want to have going into those games.”
Murray got plenty of help from Nikola Jokic. The Denver center attacked inside and outside and got the best of Rudy Gobert in their individual matchup. Jokic finished with 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting — including 4-of-7 from 3-point range — and 10 rebounds.
“We don’t win the game without those two playing their two-man game, playing off of each other and making play after play after play,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said.
Both teams turned to their stars to carry a bigger load in the absence of key players.
Utah did not have starting point guard Mike Conley, who left Florida on Sunday to return to Ohio for the birth of his son, Elijah. Starting forward Bojan Bogdanovic is sidelined during the playoffs after having season-ending wrist surgery before the seeding games.
Conley has returned to Florida and must quarantine before he can play.
Gary Harris and Will Barton were sidelined in Game 1 with hip and knee injuries, respectively, for the Nuggets. There is no timetable for either player on when they will return to action.
The Jazz seemed destined to gain the upper hand behind Mitchell’s 22 fourth-quarter points. Mitchell shot 6 of 7 from the field in the quarter, but he also committed a costly 8-second backcourt violation in the final two minutes of regulation that ultimately ended up becoming the turning point in the game.
“I kind of put a little bit on myself for that eight-second violation and then they come down and hit a three that really changed the entire game,” Mitchell said. “But at the end of the day, we’re not overreacting. It’s one game. We got to go back out there and be ready for Game 2.”
The loss cast a shadow over an electric performance from All-Star Mitchell, who became the youngest player since Michael Jordan to score at least 50 points in a playoff game.
Only Jordan (63) and Elgin Baylor (61) scored more points in a single playoff game than Mitchell.
“He was terrific,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I thought he competed on the defensive end as well. Coming up with big shots time and time again when we needed it. Really making the right play as well.”
–Field Level Media