Gary Harris, One of the Keys to the Denver Nuggets’ Heroic Journey

The Denver Nuggets made a record as the first team in NBA history to come from behind (3-1) and turn to win not one, but two consecutive playoffs. Since the NBA was launched, no team has been able to do this. Throughout history, there have only been 11 other teams that have come from behind (3-1).

Talking about the heroic action of the Nuggets, surely praise flows to their two stars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Both of them deserve the credit they received for appearing completely beyond the mind of many in the entire game against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers. However, I personally see one name that deserves special credit, namely Gary Harris.

If we go back to the first round of the playoffs against the Jazz, the Nuggets really look in trouble. Jazz who came down with the squad of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, and Rudy Gobert gave too many matchup difficulties for Jazz, who in the first five games appeared without Harris. This gave Jazz a chance to excel (3-1).

The Nuggets’ backcourt lost a player who was able to defend at high speed in the absence of Harris. Torrey Craig, who was lined up to fill the space, was too tall and too slow for Mitchell to exploit. Conversely, when attacking, Craig, who only has 31 percent tripoin accuracy, is not a significant threat.

After Harris returned to game six, when Jazz was in the lead (3-2), his presence had an immediate impact, especially in defense. Mitchell only scored five points for dealing with Harris for 4.5 minutes. Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson, Harris’s longest-running opponent (nearly six minutes), was made not to score. Harris’s return was a real problem for Jazz’s offensive.

Sep 1, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) pressures Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the second half of game seven of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, if we remember possession after Jazz’s last timeout in the seventh game, it was Harris who made Mitchell lose the ball. Harris seemed to know Mitchell’s dribbling habit well, giving him a little space, then hitting the ball from behind which led to Mitchell’s final turnover that ended the Jazz season.

Shifted to the game against the Clippers where Harris played the full, seven games. There are several things statistically that make Harris’ presence seem very influential. The first is the pace or tempo of playing the Nuggets. Against the Jazz, the Nuggets have a pace of 92.8 per 100 possession. Meanwhile against the Clippers, their pace rose to 95.7. Although not entirely because of Harris because this is a team statistic, it is clear that the speed of the attack tempo will increase with the presence of Harris rather than Craig.

In addition, in defense, the Nuggets also experienced a significant increase. Their defensive rating is at 107.8. Even in terms of net rating, the Nuggets are better than the one against Jazz because this time their record was positive (0.4). When they faced Jazz, despite winning, their net rating was negative (-3.5). Harris himself has an average of 1.7 steals per game in nine games.

Harris is also the player who has the task of looking after Paul George throughout the series. In total, both of them faced one on one (the Clippers attacked) for 40 minutes. During this time, George scored 34 points, 12 assists and 5 turnovers. Another success of Harris was when he faced Kawhi Leonard. Meeting Kawhi for more than nine minutes, Harris kept him from scoring only 10 points from 2/8 shots (25 percent).

One more neat factor that Harris presents is the accuracy of his tripoin. Since entering the NBA in 2014, Harris has been known to have good tripoin accuracy. Included in the nine playoff games he played, the 26-year-old had 37 percent tripoin accuracy with an average of 4.2 trials.

Harris is proof that a team can succeed if the “supporting cast” plays its part. This is what the Clippers mainly don’t have in the last three games. When players like Murray and Jokic get more control than their opponents, they’ll be looking for a free partner and Harris with 37 percent tripoin is one of the best choices there.

In addition, Harris can also give Murray extra breath with his ability to survive. Murray does not need to keep the opponent’s best guard because Harris can do this job well. With this, Murray’s energy is also maintained to lead the Nuggets attack and shower the opponent’s ring with his shots.

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