What a way to start the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
Donovan Mitchell led the Utah Jazz with a career-high 57 points but it wasn't enough as the Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray (Kitchener, ON) stepped up with numerous clutch shots to send his team home with a win.
For more on this highly competitive, back-and-forth Game 1 between the Nuggets and Jazz, we have you covered with takeaways below.
Crunch time Murray
While Mitchell's point total will make headlines, Murray's counterpunches down the stretch of this game decided the outcome.
As red hot as Mitchell was, the Kitchener, Ontario native had an answer for nearly every shot the Jazz star made in crunch time.
Murray only had 16 points heading into the fourth quarter but that didn't result in a lack of confidence when it mattered most. The Nuggets guard scored or assisted on 15 of the team's final 17 points in regulation, including a massive step-back 3-pointer and heavily contested midrange jumper to tie the game, each with under two minutes remaining.
He went on to score 10 of the team's 20 points in the overtime period to get Denver over the hump and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Murray missed the Nuggets' first four games in the bubble with a back injury but after scoring a playoff career-high 36 points, it appears he's back to full strength. The Canadian shot 13-for-20 (65.0%) from the field and a blistering 6-for-9 (66.7%) from 3-point range to go with nine assists, five rebounds and a steal in the win.
Jamal Murray dropped a playoff career-high 36 points to lift Denver in OT! 🏹 pic.twitter.com/h0vO9Tkj1V- NBA TV (@NBATV) August 17, 2020
The Jazz went into Game 1 short-handed with veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. leaving the bubble for the birth of his child, so it was expected that more would be asked of Mitchell.
The 23-year-old superstar is no stranger to the postseason, leading Utah to three consecutive playoff appearances since being drafted in 2017, and his experience was on full display in this one.
Mitchell did a little bit of everything to keep the Jazz in the game. His 10 points in the third quarter helped flip a seven-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and turned the momentum of the game in Utah's favour.
He only ignited from there, exploding for 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a number of clutch buckets down the stretch to help send the game into overtime. In the process, he eclipsed his career-high in scoring while setting a new franchise record for points in a playoff game, surpassing Karl Malone's 50 points.
And that wasn't the only all-time great company his name was mentioned in on the day either. Per ESPN Stats and Info, Mitchell became the youngest player to score 50-plus points in a playoff game since Michael Jordan's historic 63-point game against the Boston Celtics in 1986.
Mitchell finished with 57 points - the third-most in a playoff game in NBA history - to go with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Jazz came up just short in overtime.
Spida went off for 57 PTS (3rd-most in NBA Playoffs history) 😱 pic.twitter.com/EsW9IBuexX- NBA TV (@NBATV) August 17, 2020
The centre battle
One of the biggest talking points in this series comes from the centre position as the crafty offensive threat Nikola Jokic goes toe-to-toe with two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.
Each player impacted the game in the exact manner you'd expect - Gobert controlled the paint on defence while Jokic orchestrated the Nuggets' offence.
For instance, watch as Gobert sends Porter Jr.'s shots away twice in one possession:
nope 🚫- utahjazz (@utahjazz) August 17, 2020
nope 🚫 pic.twitter.com/VFoXDgmjm4
And as Jokic drops a full-court dime to his teammate for an easy layup:
That's our QB! pic.twitter.com/t8cK5gs3zj- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) August 17, 2020
Even the final possession of regulation came down to this head-to-head matchup, as Gobert's defence forced Jokic to miss the game-winning layup attempt to force overtime.
Jokic's team came out on top thanks in part to his 29 points and 10 rebounds, but Gobert held his own as well with 17 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
There's plenty more action to come from these two All-Star bigs.
Porter Jr.'s playoff debut
After putting the league on notice in the bubble with averages of 22.0 points and 8.6 rebounds on 55.1% shooting from the field, Michael Porter Jr. earned All-Seeding Games Second Team honours to make his mark felt on the No. 3-seeded Nuggets. With his highly anticipated playoff debut preceding that splash, Porter Jr. was held to a higher standard from the get-go and fell a bit silent as his first playoff game progressed.
MPJ started out hot with a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, but he only finished with 13 points. He was forced out of the game down the stretch because he was being targeted on defence and his offensive production wasn't enough to keep him on the floor.
His team still came away with the win despite his offensive struggles, but it's a lesson learned for the 22-year-old forward as the series continues.
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