On Wednesday, Murray and Nikola Jokic rebounded from their first NBA Finals loss by making history. In their best and most important game as teammates, Jokic and Murray became the first duo to record 30-point triple-doubles, helping Denver rout the Miami Heat 109-94 to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Murray set the tone before finishing with 34 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Jokic delivered a stat line never seen before in NBA Finals history with 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists. It was his eighth triple-double in his past 11 postseason games.
"By far, their greatest performance as a duo in their seven years together," Malone said.
After hearing from Malone about the Nuggets' lack of effort and being shown over a dozen clips of their lack of discipline in defensive breakdowns after Game 2, Murray came out determined to make amends for the team's first postseason loss in Denver.
"The last shot felt good," Murray said of his missed 3 at the end of Game 2 that could have forced overtime. "It was more like throughout the game. I felt like I didn't bring the intensity that the moment called for.
"Even though I didn't play terrible, I felt like I could have done a lot more."
Murray hit eight of his first 13 shots and had 20 points in the first half.
Jokic helped break Game 3 open in the third with 12 points and six rebounds as Denver used a 29-15 run to build an 82-63 lead just before the end of the quarter.
"I think it speaks for itself, bro," Murray said of Jokic's stat line. "How many times does he have to do that for you guys to believe in his game or our game or whatever?
"Like, he's doing it, making it look so easy, good shooting, low turnovers, two blocked shots, got great hands, great communication in the pick-and-rolls, and I.Q. and all that. We're running out of things to say."
Coming into the postseason, Murray told ESPN he was determined to prove his performance in the 2020 playoffs inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, wasn't his best. That postseason, he earned the moniker "Bubble Murray" by posting two 50-point games in the first round against Utah and helping the Nuggets overcome two consecutive 3-1 deficits to advance to the Western Conference finals.
But Murray had vowed that was only "the beginning," adding that he lives for these playoff moments, especially after missing the previous two postseasons due to a torn ACL in his left knee.
He is backing up his words.
"That's what champions do," Malone said of Murray rebounding in Game 3. "That's what warriors do. They battled back.
"I felt his presence all day long. Forget the stats for a second. I felt Jamal's presence, his energy, and he was here in the moment. For him and Nikola to do what they did tonight in a game that we needed to take, regain home-court advantage of the series, was special to watch."
Jokic and Murray had help. Rookie Christian Braun contributed a breakout game with 15 points, making seven of eight shots. Aaron Gordon collected 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. And the Nuggets shot 51.2% while holding Miami to 37% shooting and just 11-of-35 from behind the arc.
Afterward, Jokic didn't want to spend much time rating his performance or Murray's, especially with the Nuggets now two wins away from delivering the first NBA championship to Denver.
"I don't know if it's the best," Jokic said when asked if this was the greatest performance by the prolific duo. "I don't know.
"We're just trying to win a game right now. We can think about that later."