Jamal Murray’s incredible 50-42-50 playoff run brought lofty praise from Nuggets coach Mike Malone and team-mate Nikola Jokic after Denver forced a Game 7 against the Utah Jazz.
The Nuggets trailed 3-1 through four games, but Murray has caught fire again in the playoffs, having helped Denver take the Portland Trail Blazers to seven games in the second round last year.
Murray had 50 points in a losing effort in Game 4 against the Jazz, then inspired wins with returns of 42 and then, on Sunday, 50 points.
The 23-year-old averaged 18.5 points in the regular season and his sensational upturn in form has left coach Malone – formerly an assistant at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors – struggling to make a fitting comparison.
“What Jamal’s done the last three games is unbelievable,” Malone said.
“I’ve been blessed to have been around some great players in this game – LeBron [James], CP [Chris Paul], Steph Curry, Klay Thompson – but I’ve never seen a guy go 50, 42 and 50, two of those games being elimination games.
“Talk about a young guy putting a team on his back… and that will to win, to do whatever is necessary to get the team to win, is tremendous.”
Murray visibly grappled with his emotions in Denver’s first game since the playoffs were paused after the Milwaukee Bucks went on strike following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Blake was repeatedly shot in the back by police in the Bucks’ home state of Wisconsin, prompting the latest demonstration against police brutality and racial inequality.
Murray wore shoes decorated with images of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and he struggled to find words for his on-court TNT interview.
Malone continued: “We haven’t played since Tuesday, so to do it with everything that’s taken place in the last three or four days, all the raw emotion, makes it that much more impressive.
“I’m running out of superlatives for Jamal Murray. I just want to say I’m proud of him. What he did tonight was amazing.”
Jokic, who scored 22 points, was similarly impressed, adding of Murray: “He’s really playing at a high level, a superstar level right now.
“We wish the God of basketball is going to give him a little bit more of that during our playoffs.”
Murray himself recognises the need to perform on a more consistent basis, however.
“People want me to be consistent and, I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy,” he said. “That’s why the greats are so good. They don’t just do it one night, they do it every night.”