Ex-Cats

Jamal Murray hits 9 threes, named MVP of Rising Stars Challenge

World Team guard Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets (27) holds up his MVP trophy after the Rising Stars Challenge, part of NBA All-Star events in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017.
World Team guard Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets (27) holds up his MVP trophy after the Rising Stars Challenge, part of NBA All-Star events in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. AP

Former University of Kentucky star Jamal Murray shot his way into the spotlight with 36 points, including nine three-pointers, and 11 assists in the World team’s 150-141 victory over the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge in New Orleans.

“I was out there, I wasn’t second-guessing. I was just taking heat checks,” said Murray, the game’s MVP.

“I was just shooting like I normally shoot,” he told NBA.com. “I wasn’t trying to think about MVP or how many points I had, I was just playing.”

Murray easily eclipsed his career high of 24 points so far during his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets.

New Orleans’ own Buddy Hield, who scored 28 points, appeared headed for MVP honors. That was until Murray went on a tear down the stretch.

“He got hot. Coach is like, ‘Give Jamal the ball,’” Hield told the Associated Press. “When a guy is hot, you can’t stop him from being hot. You can’t be selfish and say, ‘OK, I want to show out.’ I want to show out and I want to get MVP, but he got hot, man. This wasn’t my time. He deserved it. When a guy’s hot, you got to give him the ball. I don’t care who it is.”

All four ex-Cats had their own shining moments in the game.

Murray was 9-for-14 from three-point range and 13-for-19 overall.

“It was easy for [Murray]” down the stretch, World coach Mike Brown told NBA.com. “Every time he’d get the ball, his teammates were yelling, ‘Don’t pass Jamal! Don’t pass!’”

Karl-Anthony Towns was 11-for-14 with 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, and Devin Booker had 17 points and six assists for the U.S.

“We didn’t come up with the win, but we had a good time out there. We had a lot of fun,” Booker told the AP. “The weekend isn’t over for me. I still have the Skills Challenge (on Saturday night), so I’m looking forward to that.”

Trey Lyles added seven points and two assists for the World squad.

Dennis Varney: 859-231-3514, @ExCats

NBA All-Star Weekend

NBA D-League All-Star Game: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 (NBA TV); ex-Cats participating include Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.

All-Star Saturday Night: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 (TNT); DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Devin Booker and Anthony Davis will compete in Skills Challenge.

All-Star Game: 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 (TNT, WLXG-AM 1300); includes Cousins, Wall, and Davis.

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