Nuggets’ Jokic and Murral two-player game sets new pick-and-roll standard

DENVER (AP) — Heat Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra practically chuckled when asked about nullifying the effective two-player play Denver nuggets teammate Nikola Jokić And Jamal Murray.

“Yeah, where to start? You have two people who can score 50 points in a knockout match. Spoelstra said.

“You list loads of things you can do in defense, you have to tick some things that you don’t really want to do because of both their scoring ability and Jokic’s ability to create something out of the box. .”

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Spoelstra knows what Heat is up against; it’s nothing new to Denver. The Nuggets’ strong duo were nearly unstoppable in helping Denver through the knockouts 13-3, including a Win 104-93 in game 1.

A win on Sunday night would make them only the second team in this century to win their first 10 home games in just one season. The Nuggets’ run for what they hope is their first NBA championship is being driven by Jokic and Murray.

They’re entering the pantheon of royal picks and scrolls of standard-bearers John Stockton and Karl Malone. But the Nuggets do it with a different twist.

While Malone set up nearly all of the screens for Stockton when they were teammates on the Utah Jazz, Denver’s version is ambidextrous, making it twice as difficult to decode and much harder to decipher.

“Three, four years ago, the #1 pick-and-roll combo in the entire NBA was Nikola and Jamal,” recalls Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “And most people would just assume that Nikola set up Jamal. It’s really the opposite. That’s Nikola’s handling and installation of Jamal.

“The reason it’s so effective, aside from the obvious reason – two really talented players – is that Jamal is big, strong, physically good and doesn’t mind collisions. Some guys like to slide off every screen because they don’t want to be exposed to that, they don’t want to give up on themselves,” the coach added. “Jamal from the very beginning of his career here, he has shown that he is willing to go and make an impact on the big man, the little man, it doesn’t matter, because he is so great. rigid.

“The second part of that is that he also knows that if Nikola has the ball and he makes a save, his men have to help, which will get him ripped apart. If you want to simplify the game of basketball, it leads to separation.”

Both Murray and Jokic are three-level scorers who can throw 3-pointers, make mid-range jumps and drive into the basket. Their performance in Game 1 got them into some elite company.

Going into the series opener, only 1991’s Michael Jordan and 2012’s Russell Westbrook had at least 25 points, 10 assists and five rebounds on their NBA Finals debuts. Jokic and Murray filled their names on that list Thursday night – Murray had 26 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds and Jokic extended his NBA record with his ninth double in the games. this knockout, getting 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

The only other teammate to have 25 points and 10 assists in an NBA Finals were Magic Johnson and James Worthy, who did so for the Los Angeles Lakers against Boston in Game 1 in 1987.

Murray and Jokic have improved their on-court relationship since Murray’s rookie season in 2016, a year after Jokic joined the Nuggets as the now confusing 41st overall draft player. Murray is assisting Gary Harris and Jokic coming on from the bench behind Jusuf Nurkic.

“We’re really going to be in the game together, and we’re going to do posts or simply give and go… and I’d say then we’ve developed a chemistry,” says Murray. study,” Murray said. “Soon, we both started, we started playing together. We started to figure out where we liked the ball, when we liked the ball, when I would pass, when he would pass, when he would drive, when to move, where which to move.”

Heat guard Kyle Lowry, who is in his 16th NBA season, is hard pressed to come up with a better point guard/big man combination.

“Jamal and Jokic, they’re dangerous because they can both score and pass the ball,” Lowry said, noting that he played against a “great combination” of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs . “They are big targets and they have a great affinity for each other.”

Nuggets guard Ish Smith has had a record 13 teams in 13 NBA seasons and said he’s never seen anything quite like the Denver duo. Smith said what makes Jokic and Murray so effective is that both players are the antithesis of superstars who would rather go one-on-one in isolation.

“It doesn’t work if Nikola is selfish and ‘I need the ball,’ and Jamal is a ‘I always need the ball’ guy,” Smith said.

The Heat knew they had to at least slow down the Nuggets.

“We’ve proven that we can win and get through no matter how the game goes,” Spoelstra said. “The ideal situation would be if it was in our condition and we were controlling the duration of the game, but we also won games where we couldn’t do that for the whole game. play.”

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