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‘Be committed’: Jamal Murray’s buzzer-beater winner a product of intense preparation and meditation

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray was struggling with shooting on Monday night, but his teammates kept passing him the ball. It paid off big time as Murray hit a step-back jumper at the buzzer to cinch a 101-99 victory over the Lakers

“I told my teammates when I was struggling, ‘I’m going to look for y’all.’ Every single one of them told me to keep shooting,” Murray said in a postgame interview. “Keep shooting, be aggressive. Keep shooting, even when I was throwing up that b—–t floater.”

He dropped 20 points on Monday despite going 9-for-24 from the field. Murray’s last shot gave the Nuggets a 2-0 lead in their first round series, and their 10th consecutive win over the Lakers. Facing the Lakers in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals is the first step in Denver’s quest to repeat as NBA champions. The franchise won its first title last year over the Miami Heat.

Murray has remained a major contributor along with MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic in that quest. This is despite the injury woes that kept him to 59 games played. 

“When you are out and you are watching, you are watching how much you can contribute or where they need you, or what it’s going to take for you to get back out there,” Murray told CBS Sports in discussing his Other Hand campaign with Cheetos.

“You are just going to use that as motivation for yourself to bring the right energy to your workouts and to the game you are going to play,” he added. “I think I just got refreshed over the seven games that I missed and I’m ready for the real thing now.”

Monday’s game got off to a rough start, with one of the early highlights being LeBron James’ block of his dunk attempt early in the first quarter. The Lakers led by as many as 20 points at one point, but Murray and the rest of the Nuggets kept on pushing to accomplish the largest comeback in the franchise’s postseason history. The clutch play also served as Denver’s first ever playoff buzzer-beater.

This is one of Murray’s best seasons yet, as he averaged 21.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists over the course of the regular season. A lot of it, Murray said, has been mental work. 

He is a big believer of the power of meditation and has his routine down. A dark room and a heat pack are helpful, but the most important parts of a successful session are “not being afraid to just be still” and to have an honest conversation with himself. 

“Whatever I’m talking to myself about, I like to be super honest with what I’m saying in my head to myself so that I’m not cheating myself,” Murray explained. 

A big focus for him now is being more aware of how his energy impacts the locker room, and particularly the younger players.

“I sit beside Christian Braun in the locker room, so I try to be consciously aware of how much the rookies are actually paying attention, watching from afar as I did when I was a rookie looking at my vets,” Murray added.

Braun is certainly paying attention, giving Murray some love on social media after Monday’s win. He put up 10 points from the bench, and one of his top moments included a pump-fake against James that helped him draw a foul.

Braun and Murray were two of five double-digit scorers for the Nuggets on Monday. Jokic put up an incredible triple-double of 27 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. Meanwhile, Aaron Gordon added 14 points and seven rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in an additional 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-10 from 3-point land.

Murray has a team-first mentality, but he also understands that to lift the team he has to be his best self. When meditating, his personal message to himself is clear.

“Be committed,” he said. “Be super committed in my recovery, in my preparation and give myself the best chance to succeed by building good habits, especially this time of year.”

The Nuggets will now head to Los Angeles for the next two games of this first round series. Game 3 is set for Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

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