The Denver Nuggets know exactly what they’re going to get from Nikola Jokic. The real x-factor on this team, the player whose performance often decides the outcome of a Nuggets game, is Jamal Murray. For the Nuggets to be great, so must their young point guard, and he was just that in Denver’s game one victory over Portland.

Murray scored 23 points on Monday night, second only to Jokic’s 37 for Denver, but the scoring wasn’t necessarily where he made his greatest impact. Murray has shown real growth this season in the traditional responsibilities of a point guard. His two-man game with Jokic has improved every month and he’s learning how to protect the basketball.  

Murray put his improved playmaking on display Monday night, using his scoring ability and Jokic’s gravity to his advantage. He was manipulating, not reacting to the defense. On a night when Jokic dominated, Murray facilitated. That’s exactly what the Nuggets needed to secure game one.

Watch Murray’s highlights here: