The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets in spectacular fashion Sunday night, winning on an incredible buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Anthony Davis. The 105-103 win will be remembered for Davis' game-winner but there's more to the story. The overarching narrative should be that Denver needs to find help for star guard Jamal Murray.
While Nuggets center Nikola Jokic got a lot of attention for his late-game run, he wasn't as important to the game was Murray was. Jokic scored 30 points, had six rebounds, added nine assists and went on a personal 9-0 run late in the fourth quarter. He had a great game. But in the end, Denver was minus-9 in the 39 minutes he was on the floor. Conversely, the Nuggets were plus-16 when Murray was on the court.
While plus/minus is a flawed stat, it's worth lingering on that Murray number. He played all but four minutes in the game and was plus-16. The Nuggets lost by two points. That means that in the four minutes he was on the bench, Denver was outscored by 18 points. That is an absolutely staggering statistic.
In Game 1 of the series, Murray was minus-21 and Jokic was minus-19 in a 126-114 loss. That's something you expect from that score. The team's best players are likely to be negative in a loss. But in Game 2, the Nuggets were the better team when Murray played.
There are two conclusions here. The first, is that Murray should leave the court as little as possible. The second is that the Nuggets need to find a way to hold serve when he's off the court.
The plus/minus numbers for a few of the team's other pieces were bad in Game 2. Michael Porter Jr. was minus-6, Gary Harris was minus-16 and Monte Morris was minus-7. Those guys have to step up and at least hold the game even when Murray needs to sit.
The Nuggets are now down 2-0 to the best team in the Western Conference and suffered a gut-punch loss in Game 2. If they want to come back in this series it won't be on Murray and Jokic to be better. The rest of the team stepping up will be the key.