LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (ABC4 Sports) – Denver is not going down without a fight.
Jamal Murray scored 33 of his 42 points in a second half where he played every minute and the Denver Nuggets avoided elimination by beating the Utah Jazz 117-107 on Tuesday night in Game 5.
The Nuggets trail the sixth-seeded Jazz 3-2 with Game 6 on Thursday.
Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points to lead the Jazz, but could not contain Murray, who made 17 of 26 shots from the field.
“They were at a level that we just didn’t reach,” Mitchell said. “They played played desperate, and I’ve got to give them credit because some teams would roll over, and they didn’t. They kept fighting, especially being down 15. He hit tough shots. He made tough moves, and I’ve got to give him credit. You just give him his credit and you move on to the next one.”
Murray was unstoppable down the stretch in nearly matching his 50-point effort in Game 4. He hit 17 of 26 shots and had eight assists, including a pass to Nikola Jokic for a 3-pointer with 23.6 seconds remaining that sealed the win.
”Whenever he’s like that we are winning the game or we are really close,” said Jokic, who scored 31 points and also did not sub out in the second half. ”That’s what we need from him.”
The dynamic tandem of Murray and Jokic clearly weren’t ready to leave the NBA bubble just yet. Jokic had it going early as he scored 21 of his 31 points in the the first quarter.
Murray took over late after his team fell behind by as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
”We’ve all got a will to win. Simple as that,” explained Murray, who played through a bruise on his knee. ”That can carrying you. That can take you places.”
Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson each scored 17 points for the Jazz, while Joe Ingles added 13.
Utah had a 12-point lead with just over three minutes left in the third quarter, but Murray led an 18-4 run run to give the Nuggets the lead.
“Jamal was fantastic tonight,” Conley said. “Especially in that second half, he really got going. I think as a team, we let a couple of events rattle us a little bit. Whether it was fouls, turnovers, or not being able to move on to the next play really kind of bit us tonight.”
“We just lost our composure when we were ahead,” added Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. “He certainly made some terrific plays. We had some breakdowns, but I thought as much as anything, we got a little distracted and weren’t as focused defensively.”
With the game tied at 101, Murray scored nine straight for Denver to put the Nuggets up by nine with 1:20 to go.
The Nuggets turned in their best third period of the series when they needed it most. Trailing 63-54 at halftime, they outscored the Jazz 28-23. Utah has dominated the third quarter by a 142-92 margin before Tuesday.
”This was a very important win for us to stay here and keep the series alive. We have to go out there and find a way to get a Game 6 and force a deciding Game 7,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. ”Jamal and Nikola will be the keys to us continuing doing that.”
Mike Conley said there’s a lesson to be learned after the Jazz lost some of their focus with the lead.
”Not to let our minds get away from our task at hand,” Conley said. ”The other team doesn’t care what’s going on in your mind. They’re going to keep pushing and keep going and keep fighting. That’s what teams like Denver do. They’re very good. They’re not going to lay down easy.”
Game 5 is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. mountain time on Thursday.