First, it was Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain. Then it became about Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. The last decade was about LeBron James facing Kevin Durant. During the Orlando bubble, it was all about Jamal Murray vs. Donovan Mitchell.
Two stars in the making had one of the greatest playoff duels the NBA has ever seen, in what was one of the greatest first-round matchups in the association’s history. The series was capped off with Denver’s Game 7 victory over the Jazz, as the Nuggets became the 12th team in NBA postseason history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit.
The Canadian point guard prompted the turnaround, by imposing himself as Denver’s leader and franchise cornerstone alongside Nikola Jokić. He had a 50-point momentum-shifting performance in Game 5 that the Nuggets continued to build on before eventually closing out the series in a historical fashion.
I did not want to pack! I was procrastinating packing the whole time and I was looking at my room like if we lose this game I gotta pack this whole room up!Jamal Murray, Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles
I bet Donovan Mitchell also didn’t want to pack because the level of basketball the two of them displayed over the course of the series was historic. Their duel featured an NBA record for combined points between two players in a playoff series. They combined for 475 points, 65 three-pointers, nine 30+ point games, and four 50+ point games.
Both Mitchell and Murray had 50+ points performances in Game 4, becoming the first opposing players to reach that threshold in a playoff game. Donovan became the third player in NBA history to score more than 50 more than once in the same series, while Jamal set the new Nuggets franchise record for points in a postseason game.
He ended up averaging 31.5 PPG on 55% shooting, including 55% from deep and 92% from the charity stripe, while Mitchell finished the series as the first player in NBA history to average 35+ PPG 50+ FG% 50+ 3P% 90+ FT%.
We couldn’t get a stop. Like nobody could stop each other. It was just like back and forth; we just couldn’t stop each other.Jamal Murray, Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles
We hope for more of the some once the season kicks off on December 22. After their all-time great first-round matchup, that’s the standard NBA fans will be holding them to. That’s why let’s hope this is just the beginning of a rivalry. The one that will develop into a legend like those that preceded it.