"Stat Just Happened" is our new series where we'll pair an important stat with how it actually unfolded on the floor. Our aim? To answer key questions, uncover hidden truths and peel back the curtain on why some numbers matter more than others.
Today, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray takes the spotlight.
According to NBA.com, that's Jamal Murray's effective field goal percentage - a statistic that adjusts for 3-pointers being worth one more point than 2-pointers - on pull-ups in these playoffs.
Why is it noteworthy? It's ridiculously good.
Put it this way: Murray is one of 44 players to have attempted at least 25 pull-up jumpers in these playoffs. Of those players, only six - Mike Conley, Seth Curry, Donovan Mitchell, Michael Porter Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - have converted them at a higher rate.
Murray, however, has made and attempted more pull-ups than anyone else in the league. So not only is he connecting on them at a high rate, he's making a ton of them.
Murray's getting it done in mutiple ways, too. Houston Rockets guard James Harden is well known for shooting almost exclusively from 3-point range off the dribble. (Of the 112 pull-ups Harden attempted before the Houston Rockets were knocked out of the playoffs, 100 came from the perimeter. Teams know at this point that he wants nothing to do with the midrange). As you can gather from the table above, Murray has taken almost as many pull-ups from inside the arc (95) as outside the arc (90) in these playoffs, which is quite unusual in today's analytically obsessed league.
The key with Murray is that he's making them at almost the same rate. Heading into Denver's Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers, he's knocked down 45.3 percent of his 2-point pull-ups and 45.6 percent of his 3-point pull-ups, per NBA.com. That's about what he shot from 2-point range during the regular season (46.8 percent), but it's way up from what he shot from 3-point range (32.4 percent).
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Being able to pull-up from both ranges without any drop off in efficiency adds a level of unpredictability to Murray's game because the defence can never be quite sure about what's coming next when he's operating out of the pick-and-roll or in isolation.
He might lose his defender with a step back 3-pointer on one possession...
...only to use the threat of him taking another step back 3-pointer to get an open shot from midrange a few seconds later.
Try to take both of those shots away, and it can come at the expense of him getting all the way to the basket, where he's greatly improved as a finisher in the season restart.
Murray is comfortable scoring from floater range as well. He'll leave defenders in the dust, making them think he's going to go all the way to the basket before stopping on a dime.
Murray makes it look easy a lot of the time, but the shots he's taking and making in volume in these playoffs are anything but easy. It's why there's so much talk about him becoming a star. It's not just that he's averaging 26.6 points and 6.5 assists per game on a Nuggets team that is now three wins away from the NBA Finals. It's that he's reached a level where nothing can be done when he has it rolling, much to the credit of his ability to create efficient shots for himself at all three levels off the dribble.
Does it remind you of anyone? It should.
Murray is very much his own player, but the way in which he's been breaking defenders down in these playoffs is Stephen Curry-esque.
The difference with Curry is that he's long been one of the league's best pull-up shooters. (In 2018-19, Curry made 44.1 percent of his 2-point pull-ups and 41.5 percent of his 3-point pull-ups. In 2017-18, 57.0 percent of his 2-point pull-ups and 41.0 percent of his 3-point pull-ups. Yeah ... he's from another planet). For Murray, this is relatively new territory for him. He's always been an efficient scorer from midrange, but it's from 3-point range where his efficiency has waned. Prior to making 32.4 percent of his 3-point pull-ups this season, he made 33.8 percent last season, 32.0 percent as a sophomore and 28.8 percent as a rookie.
If there's reason to throw caution to the wind, it's that Murray has never come close to shooting this well on pull-ups. But if there's reason to believe that he has turned a corner, it starts with that one number...
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