The Denver Nuggets’ postseason fortunes potentially hang in the balance as they await word on Jamal Murray and his injured knee.
Murray crashed to the court in agony late in the fourth quarter Monday against the Golden State Warriors and immediately grabbed his left knee. The injury appeared to be of the noncontact variety after Murray’s knee seemed to buckle as he drove to the hoop with 50.6 seconds left in the game.
Trainers and coaches rushed onto the court as an anguished Murray pounded the floor under the basket. A wheelchair was brought out, but Murray got up and hobbled to the locker room with help from two team staff members.
Murray finished the night with 17 points in 33 minutes in the Nuggets’ 116-107 loss.
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The Nuggets had no word on the severity of Murray’s injury after the game, but he was taken to the hospital where he was to undergo an MRI. Denver coach Michael Malone and teammates were noticeably upset, with Malone describing the mood in the locker room as “very down.”
“Some of the (assistant) coaches said when they watched the replay, it looked like he hyperextended it,” Malone said. “Just an awful feeling. Keep Jamal in your thoughts and prayers, and hopefully we’ll get some good news.”
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Murray’s injury is a potentially devastating blow for Denver, which had been the hottest team in the NBA. The Nuggets won eight in a row after acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline and had won 17 of 20 overall before dropping their last two. They’ve climbed to fourth place in the Western Conference.
After a breakout playoffs last fall in the Orlando bubble, Murray had an uneven start to this season. He’s dealt with injuries, including soreness in his right knee that kept him out of the last four games prior to Monday, but has come on strong lately. Murray is averaging 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game on 47.7% shooting.
“The mood was how you could imagine,” said Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. “We’re just all kind of waiting to hear what’s going on. We’re all worried about him, praying for him and just hoping for the best.”
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Luka sour on play-in
The Dallas Mavericks have a firm hold on seventh place in the Western Conference, which would make them the top team in the play-in tournament for the final two playoff seeds. Luka Doncic doesn’t appear to be a fan of the new format.
“I don’t understand the idea of a play-in,” Doncic said Monday after the Mavericks’ 113-95 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. “You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. So I don’t see the point of that.”
Jazz home win streak ends
Donovan Mitchell matched his season high with 42 points, but the Utah Jazz saw their franchise-record home win streak end at 24 games against the Washington Wizards. Bradley Beal scored 34 points and Russell Westbrook had 25 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists to lead Washington to a 125-121 win. Rudy Gobert said the league-leading Jazz were “too comfortable” early and let the lowly Wizards stay in the game.
Ja’s one-handed flush
Another night, another highlight-reel dunk for Ja Morant. The Memphis Grizzlies’ budding star added his latest sick slam Monday night, reaching behind his head to corral an alley-oop from Grayson Allen and throwing down a ferocious one-handed slam on the break. The dunk was the loudest of Morant’s 13 points in the Grizzlies’ 101-90 win over the Chicago Bulls.
Game of the night: Heat at Suns
The second-place Suns are no longer just the fun overachiever. Barring a collapse in the final 19 games, they appear destined for a top-four seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs. The Heat have won six of seven to climb back into fifth place in the East. They’re finding their form ahead of the stretch run, and Tuesday provides a good opportunity for a win over a top contender with Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.