The Jazz and Nuggets have put on an absolute show in the first round of the playoffs, led by superstar performances from Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, who have dueled for six games and, after another unreal battle in Game 6, will have to meet one more time in Game 7.
Denver was able to pull away to a 119-107 win in Game 6 thanks to Jamal Murray’s second 50-point game of this series, as he hit 17-of-24 shots from the field including an incredible 9-of-12 from three-point range. He added six assists and five rebounds, as well, as he did a little bit of everything for the Nuggets in a must-win situation. Mitchell was no slouch with 44 points on 14-of-25 shooting, also hitting nine three-pointers on 13 attempts, with six rebounds and five assists. Murray got a bit more support from Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant, who combined for 40 points alongside their star guard’s effort, and similarly to Game 5, the Nuggets played much improved defense to help them gut out a victory.
Now, we will head to Game 7 between two rivals who seemingly always play hotly contested games no matter who wins, and the star guards will be center stage for a seventh and deciding showdown. Here are our takeaways from Game 6 heading into this year’s first Game 7 in the NBA.
Murray vs. Mitchell in Game 7 will be must-see TV
The duel between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell has been the best battle of this postseason, as the two guards are putting on a shot-making clinic. They had already produced a dueling 50-point game night once in this series and threatened to do it again on Sunday, with 50 and 44 respectively. For a pair of guards who have long shown ample scoring potential with the caveat of wanting to see them be more consistent, they’ve sustained a ridiculous level of play through six games of this series.
Game 7: Tues. (9/1) – 8:30pm/et, ABC pic.twitter.com/RpthJqIXCm
— NBA (@NBA) August 31, 2020
Trading triples late on TNT!
— NBA (@NBA) August 31, 2020
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) August 31, 2020
Down the stretch the two traded shot after shot, but it was Murray who got the best of Mitchell in Game 6 and there’s no reason to believe Game 7 won’t be yet another duel between the two. The difference will likely be which of the star guards gets the most help from their supporting cast, but it’s been a genuine treat watching them go head-to-head in this series and getting them both on the stage of a Game 7 is going to be spectacular.
Gary Harris: Good at defense
Mitchell was once again sensational for the Jazz, but the Utah offense didn’t do nearly as much damage in the paint as they have throughout this series. One of the reasons for that was the play of Gary Harris off of the bench in his first action of the series after dealing with a hip injury. Harris provided Denver with some much needed point-of-attack pressure, and his ability to navigate screens and mirror guards on drives kept the Jazz guards out of the paint and, as such, off of the free throw line.
Denver has also made some other adjustments to the Utah offense, as they’ve varied their looks and in Game 6 found success doing more switching on pick-and-rolls, especially when Mason Plumlee was on the court for Jokic. No matter what they do, no one has an answer for Mitchell, but they did a better job in Game 6 of closing off the lane to Mitchell and make him do his damage from the perimeter and not get freebies at the foul line, as he had just seven attempts from the charity stripe.
Can this level of offense be sustained?
This is the question for both teams going into Game 7, as both defenses have certainly had their struggles, but a lot of what we’re seeing is just unreal shot-making. Both teams shot 18-for-36 from three-point range in Game 6 and that’s obviously led by Murray and Mitchell’s insane efficiency, but Grant and Jokic were 7-for-12 from deep for Denver and Mike Conley and Georges Niang were 6-for-10 for Utah. Everyone on both teams is just in an insane rhythm offensively, feeding off what their stars doing, and the question is whether one team will be able to make the other uncomfortable at all in Game 7.
Right now these are offenses clicking at a ridiculous level and even good defense isn’t enough to jostle them off the tracks. If either of these squads can find a way to apply pressure and make life uncomfortable for the other — and, namely, Mitchell or Murray — that very well may be the deciding factor in Game 7.