Six nuggets for the six triples Jamal Murray sunk in the third quarter of Denver’s 135-105 rout of the Chicago Bulls.
1. Pepsi Center patrons should have a pre-planned escape route and only touch doors with the backs of their hands in the event that Jamal Murray catches fire. The Nuggets third-year point guard gets into zones where is scorching. The third quarter of Thursday’s beatdown of the Chicago Bulls, when Murray hit six 3s, was one such example. He started things off by connecting on a wide-open catch-and-shoot J from the left wing before progressing to pull-ups and step-backs.
Murray scored 22 of his team-high 25 points in the quarter.
“It’s good to see,” Paul Millsap said. “It’s good basketball, and it’s not forced. You know, he’s playing the game, he’s setting screens, he’s setting rough screens and coming off screens. … When he plays like that, you know, we find him.”
Murray’s greatest skill is his scoring ability, but he’s not above doing the dirty work. He’s a solid rebounder for a point guard as well as a willing screener. Murray has figured out that setting good screens often leads to open looks for himself.
“I like hitting people,” Murray said at shootaround. “I like setting good screens. It just makes it fun. I just try to get everybody open.”
2. For the second season in a row, Murray came out of the gates cold before finding his rhythm come wintertime. At the quarter point in 2017-18, Murray was shooting 25.3 percent from 3. He finished the year at 37.8 percent from deep. This season? Murray was hitting from outside at just a 28.5 percent clip more than one-third of the way in. That number’s now climbed all the way to 35.3 percent. Murray is singing the nets in the last 12 games, shooting 38 of 77 (49.4 percent) from behind the arc.
“I’d love for him to start next season on fire,” Malone said. “Let’s turn the tables. I don’t what it is. In early December, one of you guys had a great stat. At that point in time, he was shooting the exact same percentage from 3 as he was the year before. We all knew he’d bounce back at some point. Rhythm, confidence, whatever it may be, I’m just happy he’s making shots now.”
3. February 2006 was the last time the Bulls won in Denver, which coincidentally might have been the last time Millsap dunked as ferociously as he did in the first quarter Thursday.
Murray said Millsap’s tip-slam reminded him of his “Atlanta days.”
“I got bodies in Atlanta,” Millsap said. “I’m trying to get back to those days. Just gotta get the reps. I’m feeling good. My legs are feeling good.”
Millsap added that he’s feeling no pain in the big right toe he broke last month, which caused him to miss eight games. “It’s feeling refreshed,” he said. “I may go get a pedicure tomorrow.”
“Absolutely. I don’t care. Of course.”
Millsap looked spry on his way to 14 and eight rebounds. He was a plus-27 in 25 minutes.
4. The Nuggets are close to finally getting all their pieces back. Gary Harris returned against Chicago after missing five games with a tweaked hamstring. Harris was on a minutes restriction, but he was productive in the 19 minutes he spent on the floor. He hit a pair of 3s, made a couple nice moves to the basket and scored 14 points.
Harris came off the bench, and he might be a reserve again Saturday, but sometime soon, the Nuggets are going to roll out the Murray-Harris-Will Barton-Paul Millsap-Nikola Jokic starting five from opening night. That lineup has been dynamite in a limited number of minutes.
“Slowly but surely,” Harris said. “These injuries weren’t ideal, but we’re getting healthy, so it’s exciting.”
Barton missed Thursday’s game due to personal reasons. It’s unclear how long he’ll be away from the team.
5. The Chicago Bulls are a bad basketball team. They were bad when Fred Hoiberg was the coach and have been even worse since Jim Boylen took over. The Bulls have lost 16 times since Boylen became the head coach; eight of those Ls have been by 17 points or more, according to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson. Woof.
6. Funny moment in the first half when Rocky whipped out a Robin Lopez-esque wig and beard to antagonize the noted mascot hater.
Lopez mean mugged Rocky when he caught sight of it.
“I feel like my earliest encounters with mascots, they were never too receptive of me,” Lopez told Bleacher Report in 2015. “I was a taller child. I always looked a little older than I was. I don’t think I ever got proper attention from those mascots.”