For the first time in 18 months, Jamal Murray is set to suit up for a Nuggets home game when Denver plays its home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
Murray, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in April 2021, sat out Denver’s 128-123 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday in San Francisco due to injury management. The plan was to have him ready to oppose the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back set.
In the Nuggets’ season-opening loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in Salt Lake City, Murray had 12 points, two rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes.
“We sat down and talked about how he felt coming out of Utah and he said he felt good,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the Friday game. “It’s about listening to his body and where he’s at. I want him to have a voice in this, and the decision is made for right now. We don’t want him playing in both nights of back-to-backs right now.”
Denver doesn’t have another back-to-back set until late November, and Malone said he expected Murray to be able to play on both nights of such situations later in the season.
“This is a work in progress and it’s going to require patience on everybody’s part,” Malone said. “I talked to Jamal about that. There will be tough nights for him, but he is our guy.”
Saturday’s game is just one of six at home in the Nuggets’ first 19 contests.
The Nuggets built a 20-point lead against the Warriors on Friday before the advantage dwindled to one in the final seconds. Denver held on for victory thanks to a floor-length pass by reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic to clinch his 77th career triple-double with the assist on Bruce Brown’s dunk.
With his next triple-double, Jokic will tie Wilt Chamberlain for sixth all time.
Denver and Oklahoma City split their four meetings last season. Over the past five seasons, the Nuggets went 14-4 against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City is coming off a 115-108 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Minneapolis in its season opener.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault started Aleksej Pokusevski at center and Kenrich Williams at power forward, where Pokusevski was expected to start.
He brought Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who started 36 of his 49 games last season, off the bench.
Daigneault said he and the team would continue to experiment.
“Everything’s on the table,” Daigneault said. “We don’t want to be confined by what we’ve done or what we see as normal.”
After the Thunder ranked 12th in the NBA in pace last season, Daigneault wants his squad to play faster this season.
“The rule for us is we’ve either gotta be fast or we’ve gotta be organized, but we can’t be slow and unorganized,” Daigneault said.
After the Saturday game, the Thunder play five of their next six at home.
Oklahoma City will be without rookie guard Jalen Williams, who underwent surgery after sustaining a right orbital bone fracture in the season opener. Williams, the No. 12 selection in this year’s draft, is due to be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days.
–Field Level Media