Jamal Murray’s dad calms down watching last-second save on LeBron James
LOS ANGELES — In a corner of the NBA’s most decorated arena, one rebound pass from the epicenter of a moment that will be relived for generations, Roger Murray was at peace.
He had the best view in the house, where he could recognize and appreciate everything that converged during a four-second basketball game.
“It’s part of his dream. Part of his dream was to play against the biggest players,” Jamal Murray’s dad said an hour later from that same corner, his eyes glued to where Jamal’s assist defense against the best NBA’s all-time goalscorer landed the Nuggets’ first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.
“Go to the final. It’s part of his dream. It’s basically, right now – everything fell into place, from the injury, all of training. It makes perfect sense.
It made perfect sense that Murray had the opportunity to slide to his right and team up with a driving LeBron James, who had already scored 40 points in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. It made sense that the Nuggets, a team derided for their defense, needed to stop to sweep a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. It made perfect sense that Roger would be on the same end of the floor where the Lakers came in, sitting just behind Denver’s bench.
The only way it made perfect sense was for Roger to be calm because calm is what he taught his son to channel for years.
So Roger stayed calm as LeBron headed for the rim from the left elbow.
“I don’t worry like that, man,” he said smiling. “It’s basketball. Just give yourself the best opportunity within your ability.
This message has long been a fundamental tenet of Roger’s meditation lessons, which Jamal still takes to heart. Murray, 26, attributed his 23-point fourth quarter turnover in Game 2 of this series to halftime meditation. “We always do,” Roger said. “Just today we (did it). Every time we play, we do it.
When Jamal tore his ACL in April 2021, it became difficult to tap into this method of motivation. Roger recalls conversations with Jamal, emphasizing that Jamal had to focus only on his health. Not in basketball. “Shut that up,” he said. Jamal was not wired to part ways with the sport for so long.
“It’s tough in the sense that it’s something that’s been part of him since birth,” Roger said. “So it’s something he always has to think about, to improve.”
Through those hurdles, the Nuggets point guard emerged to position himself for a historic and courageous play on a Monday night in Los Angeles. In Game 1, the Lakers chased Murray, swinging him over to LeBron and isolating this game as much as possible. James shot 5-for-5 when driving against Murray in that game.
Murray’s defense improved as the series progressed. Ninety minutes before Game 4, coach Michael Malone praised Murray for pursuing excellence as a defender and not just settling for eminence as a goalscorer. Murray had started the series with 30 or more points in three straight games for only the second time this season, but Malone’s pregame observation proved to be prescient on a night when Murray had “only” 25 points.
There were four seconds left. The Lakers trailed 113-111. Everyone knew where the ball was going when they came in.
“They were getting LeBron to the ball so he could get on his left hand,” said Aaron Gordon, who was guarding James.
“I was guarding Rui (Hachimura),” Murray said. “He put a screen for ‘Bron’.”
Just like Game 1. But in the huddle it was decided: “We knew we didn’t want to change,” Nikola Jokic said. Gordon walked through Hachimura’s pin-down screen. Murray stayed low on the foul line but turned his attention to James, knowing the king was a task worth two defenders. He doubled the ball. “We knew, like, as soon as Jamal left, I got closer to Rui,” Jokic said.
Anthony Davis hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals three years ago. Even with that memory, Jokic felt good leaving Davis wide open on the opposite perimeter this time, because with James driving on the left, the double team would make it nearly impossible for James to direct a pass behind him to his right.
LeBron drove to the basket and Murray wrapped his hands around the ball like the life of a town depended on it.
“I put two hands on it and didn’t let it get a good shot,” he said.
Gordon tipped the little mustard that James managed to put in his layup attempt.
If Murray benefited from meditation over time, Jokic achieved some form of zen through the synergy with which the final piece unfolded.
“We were so connected. Everyone,” Jokic said. “…It was all so connected. It was great.”
And it made the party consummate – Nuggets spilling off the bench just off the play for mob Murray and Jokic.
Roger Murray looked on from behind the bench, one son’s dream come true, though another is yet to be completed. It was perfectly logical.
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