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Jamal Murray, Nuggets

The Nuggets don’t need Jamal Murray — the last 10 games show it

In the 10 games the Denver Nuggets have played since Jamal Murray’s injury, the team has been an unstoppable force. They’re continuing to play together and step up when needed. Murray suffered a torn ACL against the Golden State Warriors a month ago. After his departure, the team was devastated and wondered how they could go forward without one of their leaders.

Murray has been a phenomenal go-to scorer for the Nuggets since his emergence in the NBA Bubble a season ago. Due to his scoring outbursts in the playoffs, the Nuggets overcame two 3-1 deficits to advance to the Western Conference Finals. As the Nuggets continued to make their mark in the bubble a season ago, it was a great step in the right direction as far as championship contention.

To begin this season, it wasn’t the best of stretches for Nuggets basketball. The team began the season 6-7 in thief first 13 games. They didn’t play with the same sense of urgency and were being dominated on that end of the floor. As the Nuggets continued to show inconsistency through the season, the loss of Murray crushed them due to his versatility on offense. In the Nuggets’ last 10 games, the team has flipped the switch and looks to keep the momentum rolling.

Nikola Jokic has continued to be the MVP favorite in the NBA. While he has gone toe to toe with Joel Embiid for the award, Jokic has had the opportunity to compete with every contest in Denver this season. Jokic is averaging 26.2 points per game, 11 rebounds, and 8.5 assists. In the Nuggets’ 10 games since Murray’s injury, Jokic is playing with a chip on his shoulder, understanding that his team needs him more than ever to produce.

While Jokic continues to be the leader, another high-level player who had produced on offense is Michael Porter Jr. Nuggets fans heard Porter complain last postseason about not having touches with the ball. With Murray gone for the rest of the season, best believe it has been his time to rise to the occasion. Porter continues to beat the defense with his perimeter scoring and his attacking. In Saturday night’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, Porter was excellent at finding open teammates along with moving without the ball. Murray’s absence will open new opportunities for Porter to become the offensive weapon that he has wanted to be.

A long 72 game season can be tough. The Nuggets currently sit in the fourth spot wishing they had a higher seed. But through these last 10 games, Mike Malone can thank his players for locking in and changing the way they play. The Nuggets have emerged as people’s favorite to go far in the playoffs due to the way they play together. There is no question that the team would want to accomplish a deep playoff run with their brother, Jamal Murray. But while Murray rehabs his injury, coach Malone has already set a game plan to how his team can continue to win.

Denver has also been playing without role players in Will Barton and Monte Morris. Two contributors who provide a lot of energy to the floor, the Nuggets will elevate once the two make their returns. As the season is ending, Denver has a lot of momentum to ride on heading into the playoffs. It will be interesting to watch what historic playoff run they may have in store this season.