Murray regains confidence in Nuggets’ win over Nets
NEW YORK — On Sunday morning, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone encountered a downcast Jamal Murray.
An early shooting slump was negatively impacting Murray, but Malone offered some reassurance to his second-year guard.
Then Murray made his first 3-pointer and exhaled.
Hours after getting the pep talk, Murray produced one of the best games of his career, scoring 18 of his 26 points in the second half as the Nuggets pulled away for a 124-111 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
“Before the game this morning he said, ‘Coach, right now I’m a broken arrow.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not. You’re going to be fine. Just stay with it. I believe in you, and you have to believe in yourself,’” Malone said. “Tonight, he came out and imposed his will on the game and was fantastic for us.”
Murray took the floor for his 88th career game off to a 28.8 percent start (17-for-56) this season, including 2-for-21 from 3-point range. He made two of his first five 3-pointers in the season opener against Utah on Oct. 18 but missed his next 16 before getting a 3-pointer in the opening minutes Sunday on the same floor where he scored 33 for Kentucky against Ohio State in December 2015.
“It’s always confidence,” Murray said. “(Malone) believes in me a lot. He tells every day, every chance he gets. He pulls me aside and (is) trying to give me some confidence. Today, it helped and I went out there and played confident.
“I didn’t think about the play, I didn’t think about overthinking. I just played the game and just played aggressive.”
Like the rest of the team, it took a while for Murray to get going. He made 5 of 6 shots in the second half and finished 8 of 14 from the field while coming within four of his career high set April 7 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I could see he was down,” Malone said. “I could see he was not looking to shoot the 3 as much and trying to get to the basket more. But he needs to be Jamal Murray. I thought his pace, aggressiveness, confidence tonight were the best I’ve seen this season.”
Denver’s Wilson Chandler added 14 of his season-high 18 during the third-quarter, which began with a 31-6 blitz by the Nuggets (3-3). Chandler shot 5 of 6 in the quarter after entering the game off to a 33 percent (12-of-36) start.
He buried consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 16 seconds, giving the Nuggets a 91-69 lead with 3:39 remaining in the period.
Nikola Jokic also aided in Denver’s most productive game of the young season by producing his fourth double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Reserve Emmanuel Mudiay contributed 15 points while Paul Millsap totaled 13 points and 11 rebounds as Denver shot 50 percent and made 11 of 20 3-point tries.
“Our defense was pretty great, especially coming out halftime,” Millsap said. “We kept getting stops, kept running out, and then we made the right play on the offensive end. It’s a simple game if you keep it simple, and tonight we did that.”
The Nets (3-4) were blown out for the second straight game after losing by 21 to the New York Knicks on Friday at Madison Square Garden. They missed 14 of their first 16 shots in the second half Sunday, and although they cut the deficit to 12 in the fourth, it was too much to overcome.
“Just not ready to play for some reason,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said.
Spencer Dinwiddie tied a career high with 22 points, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 18 for the Nets. Joe Harris contributed, 16 but D’Angelo Russell shot 3 of 12 and finished with 12 points.
“We struggled to get stops,” said Russell, who added eight assists. “They capitalized. That was it.”
NOTES: Brooklyn F DeMarre Carroll (sore right ankle) and F Quincy Acy (left groin strain) each missed his first game of the season. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said both were injured at some point in the Friday loss at New York and didn’t think either would be out long term. ... Denver F Richard Jefferson made his season debut, and the former Net received a nice hand when he checked in with 2:23 remaining. ... Nuggets F Kenneth Faried did not play for the first time this season. Coach Mike Malone said he did not want to pair Faried and F/C Mason Plumlee together.