Denver Nuggets

Birthday boy Jamal Murray comes up clutch as Nuggets edge Trail Blazers for much-needed win

Through three quarters against the Portland Trail Blazers, Jamal Murray couldn't buy a bucket on his 24th birthday.

Having only knocked down one of his eight field-goal attempts, he only managed five points, which allowed a shorthanded Blazers squad to be at an even 78 points with the Nuggets despite Nikola Jokic's 35 heading into the final period.

The fourth quarter, however, was a different story.

Clutch Jamal Murray

The 6'3" guard scored 19 of the team's 33 fourth-quarter points, knocking down 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

It wasn't just jump shots. He knocked four clutch free-throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.

"A sight to behold," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said postgame on Murray's performance in the final period.

The Canadian finished with 24 points, eight assists, five rebounds, two steals, and a game-high +10 in his 38 minutes.

Vintage Melo

Portland has been playing for nearly five weeks without two of their starters in CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. While a huge reason why they've been able to ride the storm has been the play of Damian Lillard, it's also been multiple role players stepping up over various instances.

In this one, the Trail Blazers fell behind by their largest deficit of 12 in the second quarter but were able to remain in the game because of Carmelo Anthony.

The former Nugget returned home, and turned back the clock in the second quarter by scoring 16 (6-8 FGs) of his 24 in the period.

He was one of five Trail Blazers to finish in double figures led by Lillard's 25 points and 13 assists but alas, Anthony's winless streak in Denver, since the trade back in 2011, continued.

Jokic's adds to MVP case

With Murray not being able to find his range early, Nikola Jokic was powering the Nuggets through three quarters in this back-and-forth game which witnessed 15 ties and 10 lead changes.

Playing 38 minutes, he racked up 41 points, five rebounds, and five assists on 17-of-32 shooting from the field.

"I love, absolutely love, an aggressive Nikola Jokic," Malone said postgame.

There are no two ways about the fact that the Serbian center is among the MVP frontrunners so far this season. He is a close second to Joel Embiid in ESPN's PER and NBA.com's Player Impact Estimate while leading the league in multiple other advanced stats categories such as Box plus-minus, Value over replacement, and Win shares.

Road ahead

The win helps the Nuggets get back to winning ways, after their 1-3 road trip. They will host the Wizards in a couple of days to extend their home win streak to five.

Meanwhile, Portland will conclude their road trip in LA by facing the Lakers after a couple of days off.

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