Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray both struggle in Game 7, still set playoff records in an epic battle

Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert (27) grabs a rebound in front of Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (15) during the second half an NBA first round playoff basketball game, Tuesday, Sept. 1,2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Donovan Mitchell laid on the floor, arms folded, wildly disappointed that Mike Conley’s game-winning shot had just rolled out. Jazz players came to console him, their leader. But seconds after the buzzer, so too came Jamal Murray, the Nuggets’ lead guard. Murray picked Mitchell up and bear-hugged him.

“I was in shock. That was really it,” Mitchell said of laying on the floor. “That hurts. I really didn’t know what else to do. I was exhausted. I just kind of just laid there. I don’t know, man, it just sucks. This will be on my mind for a long time.”

It seemed inappropriate for Game 7 to play out as it did — a low-scoring game ending with a miss rather than a make in a series full of high-octane offense. It seemed very appropriate that Murray and Mitchell embraced at the conclusion of it all.

Neither player had his best game. Mitchell scored 22 points on 9-22 shooting from the field, adding nine rebounds but also nine turnovers in the losing effort. The box score doesn’t reveal his nearly-singlehanded effort to drag the Utah offense back to life in the third quarter. Mitchell nearly went one-on-five at times, taking and making exceptionally tough shots.

But the final play reads as “Mitchell Turnover : Lost Ball” in the play-by-play, and it’s accurate: Mitchell didn’t know Harris was in position to poke the ball away, and lost the ball right as the Jazz needed just two more points.

Murray struggled too. He finished with just 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting. The 3-point stroke that had eviscerated the Jazz in Games 4-6 left him, as he shot just 1-of-6 from deep. And truth be told, he was hobbling for much of his time on the court, after colliding with Joe Ingles at mid-court in the second quarter and suffering a deep thigh contusion.

“I’ve never been so happy to play so bad in my life,” Murray said after the game.

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) defends as Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray (27) advances the ball down court during the second half an NBA first round playoff basketball game, Tuesday, Sept. 1,2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Murray’s most questionable moment didn’t show up in the box score. After the Harris steal, the Nuggets had a 3-on-1 fast break going the other way. But instead of dribbling out the clock, Murray pushed the ball and passed to Torrey Craig, who missed a layup. That gave the Jazz one last chance to win it at the buzzer.

Yet, despite the mistakes in Game 7, what these players did throughout the series will live in playoff history. Both joined an exclusive club of players to score 50 points twice in one playoff series: Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, and the young pair. Mitchell set the all-time record for scoring in one playoff series. Murray finished in the top ten, and then came out the victor.

Mitchell was disappointed, obviously, but he’s eager to look forward. “This isn’t the last of it. This is me scratching the surface. I know what I can do. I know what I worked for. I know how hard I work. And I know how hard this team has worked. This won’t be the end of it.”

“That’s really what’s fueling me. Because this ain’t the end,” Mitchell insisted. “This is just the beginning.”

He paused, then repeated himself. “This is just the beginning. I’m ready to go hoop right now.”