If you look at how the final four teams in the 2020 playoff bubble fared in the subsequent 2020-21 season, the deep run and quick turnaround came with sizeable repercussions.
Between those four — the Celtics, Heat, Lakers and Nuggets — only Denver reached the second round following the shortest offseason in NBA history, and it was swept by the Suns.
The Heat and Lakers had around seven weeks from the conclusion of the 2020 NBA Finals until the start of training camp for the 2020-21 season; the Nuggets and Celtics had about two extra.
And the third-seeded Nuggets’ second-round exit was at least, in part, due to Jamal Murray’s ACL tear one month before the season ended.
Murray missed all of last season, where the Nuggets went 48-34, finished sixth in the West and lost to the eventual champion Warriors in five games during the first round.
Murray, 26, has looked like his old self lately, helping spearhead the Nuggets to within one game of the 2023 NBA Finals, but after his 2021 injury, he was worried about his future with the team.
“I remember being on the bus with [Murray after the injury],” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone after Murray scored 37 points Saturday in a Game 3 win over the Lakers to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. “He had tears in his eyes, and that was the message. ‘Hey man, you’re gonna come back from this and not only are you gonna come back, you’re gonna be better.’
“His first through was thought was, ‘Man, are you gonna trade me? I’m damaged goods, are you guys gonna trade me now?’ I hugged him and I said, ‘Hell no! You’re ours. We love you, we’re gonna help you get back, and you’re gonna be a better player for it.’”
Murray has become a true playoff riser like few others in the NBA.
The 2016 No. 7 overall pick averaged 20.0 points, 6.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds on 45.4 percent shooting during the regular season, where the Nuggets finished a Western Conference-best 53-29.
In the playoffs, Murray’s averages sit at 27.9 points, 6.2 assists and 5.6 rebounds per contest while shooting 47.5 percent.
“Playoff Murray” was truly born in the Bubble.
Murray averaged 18.5 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.0 rebounds on 45.7 percent shooting in the regular season before going off for 26.5 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs on 50.5 percent shooting.
In the current series against the Lakers, Murray has averaged 35.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Murray has had back-to-back 37-point games, and had a 40-point outburst earlier in the postseason against the Timberwolves.
The Nuggets sure are glad they didn’t give up on Murray.
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