Jamal Murray wasn’t done taking it to opponents, real or perceived, once the final buzzer sounded in the Nuggets’ Game 7 win over the Clippers on Tuesday night.
The Nuggets’ rising star, after dropping 40 points to complete the comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, also spent part of his postgame press conference calling out those who doubted his team.
“You got Shaq, you got Charles (Barkley), I think Zach Lowe his name … Stephen A. (Smith), all y’all better start giving this team some damn respect,” Murray told reporters. “Because we put in the work. We got a resilient team. We shouldn’t have been down 3-1, but to come back from 3-1 against the Clippers is a big achievement so it’s fun just to change that narrative.”
Outside of Denver, at least, the Clippers were the heavy favorites to win the series and complete the all-Los Angeles Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. But the Nuggets played spoilers and made it no secret that they were paying some attention to the outside noise.
Before Game 7, Nuggets coach Michael Malone had pointed out how each of ESPN’s 20 writers who predicted the series picked the Clippers. None of them had the series even getting to Game 7.
“Nobody wants us here,” said Nikola Jokic, who poured in 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists. “Nobody thinks we can do something. We prove ourselves and proved everybody we can do something.”
Shaquille O’Neal had also called Murray “Murphy” earlier in the playoffs while fellow TNT analyst Charles Barkley had predicted before Game 5 that the series was about to end there.
Now, an even bigger challenge awaits the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. They aren’t likely to be picked by many experts to beat the Lakers, but that’s likely just fine by them and the growing chip on their shoulder.
“Our goal was never to get to a Game 7,” Malone said. “Our goal when we started this whole season was to win a championship. As outrageous as that may sound to people outside of our group, we never lost sight of that. We kept our belief in that.”
Jamal Adams’ social media threat shows how great it is with Seahawks
The difference between what Jamal Adams is worried about this season with the Seattle Seahawks compared to the train wreck he left behind with the Jets is quite distinct.
Adams, who pushed the Jets into a July trade, told reporters that he threatened to unfollow starting safety Quandre Diggs on all social media platforms and delete his number if he ever gets ejected from a game again.
Diggs was booted from the Seahawks’ 35-30 win over the Patriots in Week 2 after a helmet-on-helmet hit with receiver N’Keal Harry. Diggs reached out to apologize to Harry and expressed that it was never his intention.
However, Adams evidently felt strongly enough about it to publicly quip his teammate.
Through two games this season, Adams is leading the 2-0 Seahawks with 22 tackles. He also has two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Blue Jays reach MLB playoffs: Four wild cards in Toronto’s return to postseason
The Blue Jays overcame being a full-time road for two months and make it to the MLB postseason for the first time since 2016. What’s one more trip for a first-round series?
They don’t know yet where they’ll be for Game 1 because seeding in the AL field is coming down to the final weekend of the season. The only certainty is that Toronto can finish no higher than fifth, so it’s assured of being away from the team’s Buffalo “home.”
Where they’ll play is low on the list of wild cards in a Blue Jays postseason, however. There are least four more important areas of uncertainty:
1. What will the starters provide?
Toronto has the worst rotation ERA (4.70) among the eight AL playoff teams, but the short first round can mitigate that.
Ryu started Toronto’s clinching victory Thursday, so he’ll be available for Game 1. Taijuan Walker is in line to pitch Game 2. Those two have been the team’s best starters overall in September, ahead of Matt Shoemaker and Robbie Ray. But Walker did have a bad outing recently; he allowed seven runs, although just one earned, in 1 2/3 innings on Sept. 20 during the Jays’ dreadful series at the Yankees.
The rotation issues will be a larger concern if the Jays get to the best-of-five ALDS, which this year will have no off-days. Ryu and Walker give them a decent shot at reaching that point.
MORE: MLB playoff bubbles, explained
2. How will the young hitters respond?
Kids are key to Toronto’s lineup, namely Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Even though all three grew up in the game, they’ve never experienced the postseason as players. They can ask older teammates like Joe Panik, Travis Shaw and Randal Grichuk for tips, but there’s no substitute for playing mind games in real time.
The lack of crowds next week might help them succeed. Not having a buzz in the stadium could keep them from getting overamped. On the other hand, it could keep them from fully locking in. They’ll know as soon as they step into the box for the first time.
3. What can Nate Pearson give them?
The Jays will evaluate the rookie flamethrower this weekend for a potential multi-inning relief role. Pearson has missed the past five weeks with elbow tightness. He will need to show not only that he’s healthy but also that he has command following the layoff; he averaged 6.6 walks per nine innings prior to his IL stint.
If he passes those tests, then Pearson becomes an attractive option in the middle innings. But if the Jays really wanted to get wild, they could use him to open Game 3. That way, he could go through his normal warmup routine and then go all-out in the first two innings. Shoemaker, Ray, Tanner Roark, Ross Stripling or Chase Anderson could follow in long relief.
4. Which offense will show up?
Here’s where not playing in Buffalo could hurt the Jays. They’re third in the AL with an .828 home OPS, behind only the Yankees and Angels. Their road OPS is 107 points lower, at .721, although that’s still good for sixth in the league. They could be playing in St. Petersburg, Minneapolis, Oakland or Chicago next week; that’s a wide spectrum of hitter’s and pitcher’s parks.
More importantly, can the Jays produce against decent to good pitchers? The power numbers say they can: Toronto is tied for fourth in the AL with 82 home runs. And the contact stats indicate the same: It has the fourth-fewest strikeouts in the league with 483, or 8.47 per game.
Jets’ injury mess is as bad as they feared
The signs weren’t encouraging all week, but Jets coach Adam Gase confirmed that wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman, as well as right tackle George Fant will not play in Sunday’s game in Indianapolis.
“Yeah, they’re not going to be able to go,” Gase said when asked about the two wideouts before practice Friday. “And (Fant) getting a concussion on Wednesday, he wouldn’t be able to clear the protocol (in time to play against the Colts).”
Gase added that neither Crowder (hamstring) nor Perriman (ankle) presently are considered candidates to be placed on injured reserve.
Center Connor McGovern (hamstring) also was slated to be limited in practice Friday and remains questionable to play, but Gase said, “We’ll see how he feels if he’s able to even be available in a backup role, that’s helpful for us, even in an emergency situation.”
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