Michael Porter Jr. has become the third member of the Denver Nuggets Big Three which includes Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Finally healthy, “MPJ” is reminding basketball fans of what he can do on both ends of the floor.
The Nuggets, however, are most dangerous when they get the Jokic-Murray duo going. Here’s what Porter Jr. had to say about Denver’s 1-2 punch (via The Old Man and The Three):
“It’s super easy to play off of him. That two-man game [between Nikola Jokic & Jamal Murray] is super lethal. The thing that makes our team hard to guard is if you hit Nikola in the post, and you don’t double?
“He’s gonna have his way with most players in the league. But if you do double and then Aaron [Gordon] floods to the front of the rim, now that’s a little dump-down pass for Aaron, who can get up quick and dunk.
The Denver Nuggets have been making a living in the playoffs based on Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray isolating themselves on one side of the floor. In Denver’s first position, the “Joker” posted down low with Bam Adebayo trying his best to front the burly center. Murray simply ran into Jokic’s hip to snag Gabe Vincent as he went straight to the rim for a layup.
When Vincent tried to jump that play sometime in the second quarter, Murray simply cut backdoor for another point-blank finish.
The Nuggets also caused havoc by running the usual pick-and-rolls. When the Heat decided to switch, they were still in deep trouble. When Jokic was guarded by either Jimmy Butler or Caleb Martin, Denver’s crowd was already anticipating a bulldozing move to the basket.
Nikola Jokic, though, isn’t the usual physically bruising big man. He consistently found open teammates as Miami often sent double teams. The two-time MVP didn’t attempt a field goal until the last seconds of the first quarter. He did have 10 assists and 10 points.
The mere presence of Jokic and Jamal Murray forced the Miami Heat defense to be glued on the two. Miami’s reluctance to leave Denver’s 1-2 punch resulted in one too many baskets.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray’s willingness to pass is making it more difficult for the Miami Heat defense to respond
Nikola Jokic finished the game with 14 assists, the most by a player who’s debuting in NBA Finals history. Jamal Murray wasn’t going to be left either. He had 10 dimes of his own. They combined for 24 of the Denver Nuggets’ 29 assists.
The “Joker” added 27 points while “Glitch” had 26. Together, the Denver Nuggets super duo accounted for 87 of the team’s 104 points. Stopping them is the key. The problem is there’s no easy answer to solving that problem.
Limiting Jamal Murray might be the key. If they can limit him to less than 40% shooting, the Miami Heat might have a chance. Murray, though, has hit below that figure just once in the playoffs. He had 38.1% against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who needed overtime to beat the Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic shot just 27.6% in the Nuggets’ close-out win over the Timberwolves. He was 8-29 from the field but scored eight of his points in the last two minutes of the game. Even when he’s having a bad shooting night, he almost always finds a way to score when needed.
Also read: NBA Finals 2023: Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray match incredible feat set by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and others