Jamal Murray’s fire, production key to Denver Nuggets’ playoff push

LOS ANGELES — By Tuesday morning, Michael Malone and his Nuggets players were sick of talking about whatever might linger from the aftermath of last Friday’s showdown against the Lakers, when Los Angeles coach Luke Walton claimed Denver point guard Jamal Murray engaged in “disrespectful” trash talk.

“It ain’t real,” sixth man Will Barton said. “That’s suburban beef, man. Come on. Somebody mad about somebody getting hot and talking a little bit? That happens every day in the NBA.”

Still, the potential “shenanigans,” as Malone put it, for Tuesday’s final meeting between the Nuggets and Lakers at Staples Center added an extra layer of intrigue to a high-stakes contest, as Denver aimed to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff chase. But Murray will remain a focal point for the Nuggets well past their visit to Los Angeles. The continued development of the recently minted 21-year-old coming down the stretch of his first season as an NBA starting point guard will be crucial for a Nuggets team aiming for its first playoff berth since 2013.

“When he’s playing with confidence, he’s big for our team, especially coming down late in games,” said Barton, whose game boasts its own level of flash. “No matter if he’s hot or he’s not having his best game, still keep his confidence in being able to make plays.”

Murray did not make himself available for interviews before Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles. His production has been up-and-down since the all-star break, which Malone partially attributed to Murray’s lack of rest while participating in All-Star Weekend and partially to his season-long demands. While standout big man Nikola Jokic drew headlines when he was benched for the entire fourth quarter in last Tuesday’s loss at Dallas, Murray also sat for the final period and finished …read more

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