CLEVELAND — Not himself of late, Jamal Murray got a lecture from Nuggets coach Michael Malone about being more aggressive and not passing up open shots.
He listened — and launched.
Murray scored a regular-season career-high 50 points, and became the first player in NBA history to get that many without trying a free throw, as Denver beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-103 on Friday night.
Following the game, Murray was unaware he had done something unique.
“I was just making my shots,” he said nonchalantly between sips of a postgame smoothie. “It’s kind of cool to make history. It’s a cool stat.”
Murray was cooler than cool. While All-Star starter Nikola Jokic added a triple-double on his birthday, it was Murray’s night.
The smooth guard made 21 of 25 shots, including 8 of 10 3-pointers, and scored 30 in the second half. He added six rebounds and two steals during 38 electrifying minutes.
His 84% mark from the field is second only to Wilt Chamberlain for the highest percentage in a 50-point game in the shot-clock era, according to research by Elias Sports Bureau.
“To do it as efficiently as he did it is really remarkable,” Malone said. “That’s an incredible stat line.”
With the Cavs still hanging around in the fourth, Murray made three 3-pointers in a 65-second span to push Denver’s lead to 21. He celebrated his third straight long-range make — an off-balance number from 33 feet — to open the fourth by pounding his chest and screaming toward fans in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
“That’s what we live for as players,” Murray said, “that atmosphere.”
Murray scored Denver’s first 13 in the last quarter and then passed his previous career best of 46 points by draining another 3 — on Jokic’s 10th assist — with four minutes left. Murray capped his incredible performance with a resounding dunk before being replaced with 2:23 left.
Collin Sexton scored 23 and Jarrett Allen 20 for Cleveland, which had a couple of days to prepare for the Nuggets but still couldn’t stop them.
Not with the way Murray was shooting.
The Cavs tried several different defenders on Murray, who was hardly bothered.
“It never matters,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.