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DENVER — After drilling his second 3-pointer in the span of 28 seconds midway through the fourth quarter to essentially bury the Phoenix Suns in Game 1, Jamal Murray stood at halfcourt during the ensuing timeout and implored the Denver home crowd to stand up and get loud.

“We waited for this!” Murray shouted twice while pointing his fingers toward his home floor.

Murray and the Denver Nuggets delivered an emphatic statement Saturday and reminded everyone they are the top seed in the Western Conference with a 125-107 rout over the Suns at Ball Arena.

“Those moments, when you dream of it as a kid, you try to re-enact those in the backyard,” Murray said of when he send the arena into a frenzy. “Just counting down [final seconds for a winning shot] or feeling the energy or hitting that big shot and you hear the crowd that loud, you live for those moments and you want to make the most of those moments.

“And I have been waiting for a while to be healthy to be back and playing at this level and during this time of the year.”

Murray continued his playoff tear with 34 points and nine assists. He hit six 3-pointers, but it was his back-to-back 3’s in the fourth quarter that halted a Suns’ comeback. Phoenix cut a 17-point halftime lead down to 10 twice, only to see Murray and the Nuggets turn them back.

“Jamal just continues to add to the legend of ‘Playoff Jamal Murray,'” Denver head coach Michael Malone said. “He’s a bad man. I mean, Jamal Murray lives for this.

“I tell you what, the last two years have been tough not having him. Two years ago, we got swept by these guys (the Suns) in the second round, and last year we lost to the eventual world champions (Golden State) in the first round. When Jamal Murray is healthy and locked and loaded, we know what he is capable of.”

After tearing his left ACL in April 2021, Murray missed all of the 2021-22 season. He was determined to remind everyone what he can do at this time of the year. The last time he played in the postseason, he averaged 26.5 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 50.5% from the field in leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in the Orlando bubble in 2020.

Murray told ESPN before this postseason started that “Bubble Murray” isn’t the best he has ever been and that he’s “thinking that was just the beginning.”

So far this postseason, Murray has scored 34 or more points in three of his six playoff games. He scored 35 in Game 5 to eliminate Minnesota and then followed with his performance in Game 1 against the Suns.

“He is playing amazing,” said back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, who had 24 points and 19 rebounds. “He is definitely showing what he is capable of. He is our best player and we are following him right now.”

Murray made 13 contested shots, the most in a game in his playoff career, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. None was more challenging than when he delivered a playground-like highlight in the fourth.

Murray chased down a long rebound and immediately began dribbling toward the basket. Sandwiched between Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, Murray switched the ball from his right hand to his left to keep Paul from stealing the ball. With Durant hanging on his left, Murray switched hands again before converting a difficult layup high off the glass over Durant’s extended arm, pushing the Nuggets’ lead to 106-92 with 8:21 remaining in the game.

Murray said he practiced that move numerous times while growing up in Kitchener, Ontario.

“I used to watch a lot of Michael Jordan growing up,” Murray said. “My dad and I have been studying him, and that’s where that comes from. Just watching film and wanting to do it in a game and practicing [it] outside on the court in Kitchener on concrete, trying all that stuff on a double rim.”

Murray is used to saving some of his best for the Suns. With Saturday’s win, the Nuggets are 18-3 against Phoenix in games Murray plays, including the postseason. His highest career regular-season scoring average against a single opponent (21.1 points per game) was against the Suns, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“Let’s be honest, some of them shots he hit, I don’t think anybody can stop him tonight,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But we’ve got to do something a little bit different in our scheme to keep him from getting the ball or get the ball out of his hands.”

The Suns will have to figure out a way to slow Murray down and keep up with the Nuggets from behind the arc in Game 2. Denver made nine more triples than Phoenix and took 14 more attempts from behind the arc.

“Looking at the stat sheet, they got 100 shots up and we got 84,” Durant said. “They made 16 3’s, we made seven. … I only had one assist and seven turnovers. You’re not going to win basketball games like that.”

Entering the series, the Suns were favored to win despite being the 4-seed and the Nuggets being the top seed. Murray and the Nuggets are eager to show that this is their moment.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Murray said. “I don’t know why you all [are] asking us like we’re surprised [by this showing]. We’re confident [in] what we can do and [yet have] to defend ourselves up here like we haven’t been playing like this all season.

“So we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing — keep proving everybody wrong and just take it one game at of time.”

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Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic touts Jamal Murray as ‘our best player’