I’ve seen better explanations.
But I haven’t seen more entertaining explanations.
Jamal Murray shot 4-for-18 in the Nuggets’ Game 7 loss to the Trail Blazers last year.
“I didn’t have the game I was supposed to have,” Murray said.
Supposed to have. What a telling glimpse into Murray’s mindset. He was raised to be an NBA star. Anything less was just… wrong.
Well, Murray is having the games he’s supposed to have now.
The Denver guard is the breakout star of the playoffs. He’s averaging 27 points per game while shooting 54% on 2-pointers and 47% on 3-pointers. He’s passing better and playing sharper defense, helping the Nuggets reach the Western Conference finals
Not bad for someone who not only has never been an All-Star, but hasn’t drawn much serious All-Star consideration.
Is this sustainable? Has Murray made The Leap? Or is a streaky player having a well-timed hot stretch? Is he somehow particularly benefitting from the unique conditions of the bubble?
Murray has increased his PER from 17.7 in the regular season to 24.7 in the playoffs. That’s one of the biggest jumps in NBA history – especially among players on such a deep postseason run.
Marcus Camby posted a PER of 17.8 as a rookie with the Raptors and hovered around that mark with the Knicks in his third season. Then, he broke out during New York’s run to the 1999 NBA Finals. The big man played well off the bench then really elevated his game once Patrick Ewing got hurt. He finished with a postseason PER of 24.8.
Camby had several productive seasons with the Knicks and Nuggets afterward. But he never quite matched the hype he built during the 1999 playoffs.
Which is the norm for players who made postseason surges like that.
Here are the largest PER increases from a previous regular-season high to a postseason (minimum: 500 minutes in each segment):
Just four of the 15 players on that chart matched their breakthrough playoff PER in a future regular season:
Otherwise, these were blips – magical runs that couldn’t be repeated. LeBron James is great. He can’t sustain the 37.4 PER he had during the 2009 playoffs. (For perspective, Giannis Antetokounmpo broke the single-season PER record with a 31.9 this season.)
But could Murray be another exception?
For one, this wasn’t completely out of left field. The Nuggets already gave him a max extension expecting this type of growth. (That might have turned into a super-max extension if All-NBA included the playoffs).
Murray is just 23. This looks somewhat like natural progression.
Murray also appeared on the chart last year (as did teammate Nikola Jokic). Murray is clearly improving. Maybe there’s something in his ability to rise to the occasion in the playoffs, too.
On the other hand, some of this is clearly unsustainable. Though Murray is good at making difficult shots, his 47% shooting from beyond the arc will come back down to earth.
Denver’s playoff run will likely end soon, too. Despite the easy 3-1 jokes, the Nuggets will probably fall to the Lakers. There’s a reason Denver’s comebacks against the Jazz and Clippers were so impressive. Teams down 3-1 almost always lose. That’s still true.
But Murray’s run could be just beginning.
Rockets forward Danuel House left the bubble after the NBA determined he “had a guest” – reportedly a female coronavirus tester – “in his hotel room over multiple hours on September 8 who was not authorized to be on campus.”
House reportedly maintained his innocence.
At least to NBA investigators.
From what I understand, House apologized to the entire team before exiting the bubble.
I wonder what exactly House apologized for. An apology isn’t necessarily an admission of wrongdoing. But this at least implies he came clean in the end.
Houston missed House, who had been playing very well off the bench. The Rockets split the first two games of their second-round series against the Lakers then dropped three straight without him.
Was that slide all because of House’s absence? No. Would Houston have beaten the Lakers with House? Probably not.
But the Rockets had a chance at a championship this year, and their odds shrunk sans House. With James Harden, Russell Westbrook and P.J. Tucker aging, these opportunities won’t keep coming around forever.
House – who has two more seasons left on his contract – might need to regain trust of this team. He’s not good enough to get preferential treatment. Role players must do their part to fit in.
Anthony Davis has been the best Laker throughout the playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Davis averaged 32.3 points a game while shooting 55.3% from the floor, and the Los Angeles Lakers are outscoring the Nuggets by seven points per 100 possessions when Davis is on the floor.
Behind the play of Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and now just have to do what the Jazz and Clippers couldn’t: Get one more win.
Which might be harder to do after Davis rolled his ankle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night.
— BasketballBuzz (@basketballbuzz) September 25, 2020
Davis stayed in the game after that, but could it impact him in Game 5?
“[My] Ankle feels fine. Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don’t want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play,” Davis said postgame. “Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
Laker coach Fran Vogel noted that with ankles it is often the next day when there is a sense of the severity.
“We’ll see how it responds overnight, responds to treatment,” Vogel said. “Yeah, there’s always concern with an injury like that. It was good for him to play through it, but we’ll see how he responds overnight.”
With the Lakers just one win from the NBA Finals, if Anthony Davis can walk he will play on Saturday in Game 5. The Lakers want to close this series out, they have seen what happens to teas that let the Nuggets hang around.
The decision not to prosecute the police officers who shot Breonna Taylor in her home has frustrated and angered NBA players. A number of them have spoken out, including Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who played his college ball in Louisville, Taylor’s home town.
LeBron James also has spoken out, saying the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.
Asked about it after the Lakers Game 4 win on Thursday, LeBron spoke about justice.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 25, 2020
LeBron also had taken to social media to talk about the challenges Black women face.
The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond! 👸🏽👸🏾👸🏿❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 24, 2020
When asked about that Tweet after Thursday’s game, James was more than willing to open up on the topic.
“You just look at the history of America and the disrespect that Black women have gotten for the last 400 years. You can’t turn a blind eye to that,” James said. “When I look at my household and see my daughter, who is five on her way to six, my wife and my mom, rest in peace my grandmother, so many Black women have done so many things for me. Seeing the sacrifices they made, especially my mom when I was growing up. They were disrespected along the way and it’s still like that today.
“In the case of Breonna Taylor’s case, it’s just shown once again that the walls of the neighbor is more important than her life.
“So not only did I want to acknowledge all the queens in this world, all the Black queens in this world, but the ones in my life, the personal ones, too. I just kind of had a moment yesterday. I mean, I have a lot of moments, but felt like it was important to let Black women know that you’re not alone. No matter the disrespect or what they may feel, don’t stop. Because that’s exactly what they want you guys to do. They want you guys to stop. They want you guys not to be as powerful as you guys are, not as strong as you guys are, as determined as you guys are. They want you all to be at bay. They want you to accept what’s going on. For sure, I won’t allow that.”
Powerful words from LeBron, who once again is using his platform to speak for a lot of others with these sentiments.