NUGGETS

Nuggets dynamic duo is two wins away from Denver’s all-time greats

Jun 7, 2023, 10:19 PM

MIAMI—There’s Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg and John Elway and Terrell Davis. Every Denver sports championship has taken a duo and the Denver Nuggets are two wins away from their first-ever trophy thanks to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

The Joker and Blue Arrow became the first pair of teammates to each record 30-point triple-doubles in the same game. The collaborators powered the Nuggets past the Miami Heat 109-94 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals to take a 2-1 series lead.

Murray led the team with 34 points, Jokic was second with 32.

Jokic led the team with 21 rebounds, Murray was second with 10.

Jokic and Murray poetically co-led the team in assists with 10 a piece.

“It’s greatness, man. It’s greatness. That’s a dynamic duo right there,” Aaron Gordon said of his teammates. “They make the right play, they do what the game is asking of them, they take what the game is giving them, and that’s the type of game that we kind of expect from them.”

Like Makar and MacKinnon carried the Avs to a title in 2022, Sakic and Forsberg did in 2001 and 1996 and Elway and Davis did in 1998 and 1997, Jokic and Murray are on the doorstep in 2023. Those two names from the era of Denver champions are forever linked, just like the Nuggets current partners. But the pickaxe pair still has some work to do, their Game 3 will go down as their moment if they can finish the job over the next 10 days.

“I’ve been with Nikola for eight and Jamal for seven years now, and we’ve had some pretty good moments, but not in the NBA Finals,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “For those guys to make history the way they did tonight, no one has ever done that. I mean, that’s what’s really neat about it.”

The sports legends of the Mile High City of course go deeper than these six names and soon-to-be eight but these are the icons, the ones with the championship medal that broke through in a way that resonates.

That artful mastery of team chemistry that gets remembered forever via statues, banners and throwback jerseys was at its peak on Wednesday night. When you show your kids, or your grandkids 20 years from now what Jokic and Murray were like and how the Nuggets won their first title, you can just flip on Game 3.

It was a 48-minute masterclass of an MVP and his underlooked sidekick hitting big shots, snatching boards, and dishing sweet helpers.

“He just makes the game look easy throughout the game, his touch, his creativity, his no-look passes, his IQ,” Murray said of Jokic. “I could go down the line. He’s a special, special player.”

“I think it’s just respect of each other and relationship over the years and communication, and I think but it’s not just us, it’s the team, and like I said even before the series started, Denver Nuggets need to beat Miami, not me and Jamal and whoever is on the other side. We as a group need to beat them.”

Jokic and Murray are talking themselves down, at least a bit until they finish the job, but it’s Shaq and Kobe, Jordan and Pippen, Magic and Kap. And the two made history none of those legends did, and are about to join them in basketball’s special title-winning club.

“I’d say it’s a trust and a feel, that’s the best way for me to put it. It’s not really X’s and O’s. It’s just reading the game and trusting that the other is going to make the right play,” Murray said. “I think it’s just a feel and a trust that we’re going to figure it out, and it’s a lot of unselfishness like I keep bringing that up. It’s free-flowing. If something is there, we go. If it’s not, we don’t force it. He makes tough shots look easy, and he’s been doing it for a very long time. I think the consistency doesn’t get talked about enough.”

As much could be said about Jokic recording the first-ever 30-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game in NBA Finals history, he’d want to deflect to his accomplice’s triple-double.

“He’s playing phenomenal the whole playoffs,” Jokic said. “We’re just following him, he’s a really good leader. His energy is amazing, and we are just following.”

Can you see the statue? Can you see the parade? There’s only so long left to dream, it’s all becoming reality.

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