In Game 2 of their first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets trailed by 19 points with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Up to that point, Denver's third-year guard Jamal Murray had managed to score just two points at the free throw line he was 0-for-7 from the field.
Denver closed the third period on a 16-4 run to head into the fourth quarter down just seven points, but Murray had yet to connect from the field and entered the final frame with three points.
With 12 minutes remaining in the game, the Nuggets were in need of a big-time performance to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole before the series shifted to San Antonio.
As it turns out, Murray was just the man for the job.
In the fourth quarter alone, the 22-year-old native of Kitchener, Ontario exploded for 21 points (on 8-for-9 shooting) to lead Denver's fourth-quarter rally as it outscored San Antonio 39-23, tying the series with a thrilling 114-105 win.
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Immediately after the game, Murray told NBA TV's Dennis Scott that he relishes the opportunity to come up big in the game's final frame, saying that "the fourth quarter is where players are made. I just wanted to be aggressive and I love to score in the fourth."
Murray didn't hesitate to give head coach Mike Malone credit for fuelling his confidence through his struggles: "He believed in me the whole game, even when I was playing horribly." He continued, adding that "I played horribly for three quarters, he told me to keep shooting, keep being aggressive."
In addition to his coach, Murray spoke on the impact of his teammates and an electric Pepsi Center crowd:
"My teammates - they just told me to keep going. Gary [Harris] had it going, [Nikola Jokic] had it going, and they needed me to score and I was just trying to be aggressive. The fans were into it like they are right now and it was just a lot of fun to be out there."
Murray's performance comes after he vowed to bounce back after shooting 8-for-24 in the Nuggets' Game 1 loss to the Spurs. He acknowledged his recent struggles, shared that the Game 2 win could be what this team needs to turn the corner.
The performance is all the more impressive when taking into consideration it comes in just the second postseason game of Murray's young career; he made sure to laud the team's most-seasoned veteran's efforts in leading them to the win:
"[Paul Millsap] is the MVP of our team right now. What he does on and off the court - what he says, how much he talks, how he wills himself in the game, it's contagious. We need that throughout the playoffs and tonight was just another example."
Millsap was excellent throughout the night, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds - a performance good for a plus-25 in the box score.
Denver's win in Game 2 is the team's 14th rally after trailing by double-digits season. The Nuggets will try to reclaim home-court advantage as they travel to San Antonio for Game 3, which takes place on Thursday.