Nuggets desperate to force Game 7 against Jazz

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Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell go head-to-head for a sixth time in their record-breaking backcourt battle Sunday night when the third-seeded Denver Nuggets seek to stay alive in their Western Conference playoff series against the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz in the NBA bubble near Orlando.

Murray outscored Mitchell for the first time in the series 42-30 when the Nuggets recorded a 117-107 win in Game 5 that denied, at least temporarily, the Jazz a spot in the Western semifinals against the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks series. Utah leads the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Game 7, if necessary, would be Tuesday.

Murray, who lost a historic scoring duel to Mitchell 51-50 in Game 4, has totaled 154 points in the five games. He needs 31 on Sunday night to pass Carmelo Anthony (2010) for the most points in Nuggets history in a first-round playoff series.

The 23-year-old already has surpassed Chauncey Billups’ previous franchise record for 3-pointers in a first-round series (19) with 22.

Murray could find himself with a familiar sidekick in Game 6, with Gary Harris having returned to workouts following a hip injury suffered in the lead-up to the restart last month.

Harris, who averaged 10.4 points in 56 games (55 starts) this season, has not played since suffering the injury. He has been upgraded from out to doubtful to questionable over the course of the first five games, and now has benefitted from the three additional days off in the series that have followed the postponement of Game 6 on Thursday as part of the NBA’s protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

Mitchell had 188 points in the first five games. He led the NBA in playoff scoring upon the resumption of play Saturday.

He needs 28 points in Game 6 to break Tracy McGrady’s record for most points in a Western Conference first-round playoff series, set in 2005 when he totaled 215.

The full-league record in a first-round series was set by LeBron James in 2018 with 241.

Former collegiate rivals at Louisville and Kentucky, respectively, Mitchell and Murray each have made 22 3-pointers in the series. With five more in a win on Sunday, Mitchell could break Stephen Curry’s record of 26 in a six-game playoff series

Both teams have the unenviable task of refocusing on basketball after taking leading roles in the postponements earlier in the week.

Rookie Michael Porter Jr., Denver’s third-leading scorer in the series at 14.4 points per game, admitted during the break, “Realizing the stuff going on in the world is way bigger than basketball for us, I feel like people look up to us. When we talk about these things, it’s good for the world to realize how much it means to us, too.”

Meanwhile, Mitchell announced in the aftermath of Blake’s shooting that he would be donating $45,000 toward a college fund for his children.

“Education reform is something I really believe in,” assured Mitchell, who wears No. 45. “Being able to be taught on a level playing field is something I believe is the key to generational success and being able to push past racism, systemic racism, voter suppression and everything.”

–Field Level Media

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