In a seven-game series, playoff teams pick up on even the most subtle tendencies of their opponents. Thus, misdirection is sometimes key. This seemed to be the case prior to the Denver Nuggets' dominant Game 6 victory over the Phoenix Suns, as they announced that Jamal Murray might be limited as he's dealing with a non-COVID illness.
Nevertheless, with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line, Murray was not missing Game 6 for the world. And the Nuggets were better off because of it. In 35 minutes of action, Murray dropped 26 points on 7-16 shooting from the field, playing like his usual self despite his reported illness.
But, according to Nikola Jokic, this was all according to the Nuggets' plan. Following the Nuggets' 125-100 win, Jokic joked that Jamal Murray's presence on the injury report was mere smoke and mirrors to fool the Suns.
“We tricked them… we tricked them. No, I'm kidding. He will play through anything, he's played through much worse. He's a great partner to have in this journey,” Jokic said in his postgame presser, per Jake Shapiro of DenverSports.com.
Nikola Jokic himself wasn't too shabby either; he continued his dominance over the Suns with yet another triple-double. He tallied 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists, putting the Nuggets star in even more rarefied air.
As many weapons as the Nuggets may have, the fuel that powers their high-octane offense remains the exquisite two-man dance between Jokic and Jamal Murray. The balletic partnership between the two, as evidenced by their mind-meld on dribble handoffs, pick-and-rolls, and off-ball cuts, is what elevates this Nuggets team from good to great.
The difference between the Nuggets' playoff runs with and without Murray is night and day; without Murray to complement Jokic, the Nuggets had troubles against the Suns and Golden State Warriors over the past two iterations of the playoffs. But now, with Murray around, the Nuggets look as capable a team as any of winning the 2023 NBA championship.
Now, with a return trip to the Western Conference Finals sealed, they will now await the winner of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers matchup.