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Lawson leads the way as Nuggets beat Clippers for seventh straight win

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted March 8 2013 02:03

With the Miami Heat streaking in the East, the Nuggets have been quietly going about their business while flying under the radar in the West.

Thursday night’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers might change Denver’s stealth status.

The chase for No. 3 is alive in the Mile High.

The Nuggets moved within 2.5 games of the Clippers for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture with a 107-92 victory over Los Angeles in front of another raucous crowd at Pepsi Center.

It was Denver’s seventh straight win and 12th in a row at home. The Nuggets (41-22) also hold the tiebreaker over L.A. by winning two of the three meetings this season.

“The window of our success is on our shoulders,” Denver coach George Karl said. “So much of these last 19 games is to stay strong. We can’t get happy. We can have a moment of enjoyment, but we still have a lot of areas to improve and we have a lot of good teams coming after us.”

Denver (41-22) trails No. 4 Memphis by one game in the battle for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That would be a huge benefit for the Nuggets, who are tied with the Heat for the best home record (27-3) in the NBA.

Led by red-hot point guard Ty Lawson, the Nuggets showed why they are so good at altitude by racing past the Clippers in the second half. Los Angeles led 60-59 after Blake Griffin scored with 8:40 left in the third quarter, but Denver went on a 20-4 run to seize control.

The Clippers never got closer than eight points in the game’s final 13 minutes.

“We got Blake going a little in the third quarter then we started turning it over,” Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro said. “They were out on the break getting 3s and we were chasing the rest of the game.”

Lawson scored 19 of his 21 points after halftime and added 11 assists without a turnover. He also made three of Denver’s 11 3-pointers as the Nuggets improved to 8-1 since the All-Star break and 23-6 since Jan. 5.

Their success has been somewhat overshadowed by Miami’s 16-game winning streak out East.

“If we keep flying under the radar, that would be okay,” Denver forward Kenneth Faried said. “It’s fine. We made a statement (with a nine-game winning streak) before the (All-Star) break. People started paying attention a little bit. After the break, we’ve come out and won these big games. We’re just playing Nuggets basketball.”

Faced with the challenge of guarding the All-Star Griffin, Faried finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for his 27th double-double of the season. Danilo Gallinari added 20 points as part of a balanced effort that included seven Nuggets in double figures.

Andre Iguodala hit two 3-pointers during Denver's decisive third-quarter run and also played excellent defense against L.A.'s All-Star point guard Chris Paul.

"People don't understand how hard it is to do what Iguodala does," Karl said. "It's a highly unpublicized aspect of our game."

While Iguodala's defensive consistency and Denver’s overall offensive balance remain its strengths, Lawson continues to be the catalyst for the team’s success.

With the Clippers clogging the lane with a zone defense, he countered with an array of mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers. It was an impressive display against Paul and his former mentor Chauncey Billups.

“I always try to make a statement every night, especially against top point guards,” Lawson said. “You’ve got to try and show that you can play with them. They are where I want to be. I try to see where I stand and try to get better every day.”

The same can be said for the Nuggets as a whole. They are in the mix for the No. 3 or 4 seed and seem to be peaking heading into the final six weeks of the season.

“We’ve got to stay focused on (19) games of pretty serious playoff intensity and not get hung up on a loss or a winning streak,” Karl said. “We need to get hung up on getting better. Wherever we fall, if it’s third, fourth, fifth, or sixth … just know we fought the 82-game marathon, ran that as hard as we could and got better as it went on.”

By reaching 41 victories, Karl secured his 21st consecutive non-losing season, which tied Phil Jackson for the longest such streak in NBA history. Only once during that stretch has his team finished with a .500 record (Milwaukee in 2001-02).

Karl recorded 10 straight winning seasons from 1991-2001 and can match that feat with a victory Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

STAR OF THE GAME

Ty Lawson

Points 21 9-15 FG
Rebounds 6, 1 OFF 5 DEF
Assists 11
Steals 1
Blocks 0
GAME LEADERS
Points Ty Lawson 21
Rebounds Kenneth Faried, Lamar Odom 10
Assists Ty Lawson 11
Steals Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala 2
Blocks Kenneth Faried 4
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Clippers point guard Chris Paul on facing the fast-paced Nuggets

"They feed off the crowd. They get running and if you get off to a slow start, you’re in trouble and you’re climbing uphill."

KEY MOMENT

Second-half surge helps Nuggets pull away

The Nuggets turned a one-point deficit into a 15-point lead in a 5:34 span of the third quarter. Danilo Gallinari's alley-oop dunk capped a 20-4 run, and the Clippers never got closer than eight in the game's final 14 minutes.
VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On the Nuggets’ success tonight:
“I think our confidence came in making something that isn’t normally part of our personality. Ty [Lawson] made the early 3, [Andre] Iguodala made a 3 and [Danilo Gallinari] got one in the third quarter. Our defense seemed to get stronger as the game went on. The pace of the game was very, very one-on-one, post-up oriented, a slow game, read the defense and I thought Gallo made a steal and then a couple of times when they tried to post us, we got a couple of steals and a couple of blocks. I think we got lucky a little bit not having [Jamal] Crawford on the court but in the same sense, they got as deep as the game was going on, I thought we kind of had, we had the younger version of a lot of their players. Wilson Chandler is a young Lamar Odom and I think Corey Brewer is kind of a young Matt Barnes and they are a veteran-deep team and we are a young-deep team in a lot of ways. At halftime, I said don’t get crazy. This is the first team in a while that has kind of slowed us down and confused us. You are not as bad as you think and fortunately, the 3-ball bailed us out. I know the film will show us some things that we need to work on but at the same time, we still got 107 points by creating a lot of our offense off of good defensive plays.”

On Denver’s momentum in the game:
“I don’t think there is any question that we still had momentum on our side even though it wasn’t with the fast tempo or the fast pace that we normally play at with all of the penetration but I thought we had momentum - crowd momentum - and an energy to our game. As the game got stronger, I thought it became more and more on our side and Chris Paul had the stretch and in the third quarter, he was scaring me a little bit and then I thought he was going to take over the game but fortunately, he never got back in the rhythm.”

On Denver’s development:
“I have said all season long that I like this team and the only thing I would like is more veteran leadership in the locker room. I think this team is in a developing stage and we are growing; I think it is tougher than people think it is and the window of our success is on our own shoulders. If we have a good finish, I think we have a chance to get home court and the most important thing is that whatever happens on April 15th, we are ready to play basketball.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson

On taking what the Clippers were giving him:
“Yeah basically. They were stepping back a lot. In the second half my two-point step backs and 3-pointers were falling, so I just took advantage of it.”

On what the Nuggets did different in the second half:
“In the second half, we had more movement. They surprised us in the first half. Guys weren’t really cutting and we were standing around on the perimeter. But Coach told us what we needed to do, and we figured it out in the second half.”

On making a statement at home against good Western Conference teams:
“It means we are good at home. Tough teams have come in and we’ve beaten them. We just play well at home.”

On making a statement against Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups:
“Oh yeah, I always try to make a statement every night, especially against top point guards. You’ve got to try and show that you can play with them. They are where I want to be. I try to see where I stand and try to get better every day.”

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried

On taking successful home play on the road:
“We’ve been playing better on the road, playing smarter. Guys are starting to come together and play better defense. We’re not trying to give up as many points on the road. I mean it starts here at home. These home games have been helping us get our defense better and our mental focus better to beat these great teams on the road. We’re happy right now with the win, and not content by any stretch, and just want to keep learning.”

On sensing if the Clippers were getting tired in second half:
“Yeah we did, especially in the third quarter. That’s when we busted the lead open. I think it was tied at the half, so it was 0-0 to use. People can’t really keep up with us when we are really on.”

On pushing the pace even more in the second half:
“Yeah we tried to keep the pressure on them [Nuggets]; we tried to keep them frustrated. I mean you saw the things that were happening, they were getting frustrated. They wanted to put up a fight but it’s whatever.”

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro

On the third quarter:
“We couldn’t control in transition and turned it over a couple of times, compounded some mistakes and they made some shots. We kind of played into that; we got Blake [Griffin] going a little in the third quarter then we started turning it over and they were out on the break getting threes and we were chasing the rest of the game.”

On Denver’s three-point shooting:
“Turnovers. They got three in transition and that right corner there. We didn’t match up one time; [Ty] Lawson hit one on the break in the left corner. We did a good job in the first half of controlling the tempo with our offense and in the second half, we didn’t do a very good job offensively or scramble when we needed to. They made some shots. Obviously their penetration at times hurt but their three-point shooting was the difference.”

Clippers guard/forward Matt Barnes

On the difference between the first and second half:
“We were missing easy shots. We allowed them [Nuggets] to get in transition and they were able to put it away in the second half.”

On playing without Jamal Crawford:
“We just had to execute our offense a little better. We have plenty of capable guys on this team. If one guy goes down, we have plenty of guys to step up, but we just ran out of gas tonight.”

On the transition defense:
“This is the best team in the league in transition. It’s just something we have to continue to work on in practice to make sure we are ready by the time the playoffs come.”

Clippers point guard Chris Paul

On guarding the three-point shot:
“Our three-point defense has been terrible. Part of it tonight is that we know how many points they [Nuggets] score in transition in paint. But tonight all of their threes were wide open. This is not a great 3-point shooting team, but tonight they were lights out. They just beat us.”

On playing in Denver:
“It’s tough. They feed off the crowd. They get running and if you get off to a slow start, you’re in trouble and you’re climbing uphill. It doesn’t help that they were resting, and we’re coming off a back-to-back, but that’s a good team we just lost to.”

On the difference between the first and second half:
“I think it was turnovers. We turned the ball over, and they made a big run to start the third quarter. They were just hitting shots with their eyes closed. They were getting fouls called.”

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Ty Lawson registered 18 points, eight assists, and three steals in tonight’s victory, marking the sixth time in his career he has reached these numbers (third this season). With his 18 points, Lawson has now scored in double-digits in 20-consecutive games, the longest streak of his career (previous – 19 games; 1/6/12 - 2/14/12).

• Lawson also extended his streak of games with five-or-more assists to 14 consecutive games. This also marks the longest streak of his career, besting his previous high of 11 games (12/9/12 - 12/28/12).

• Kenneth Faried recorded his 25th double-double of the season by tallying 10 points and 13 rebounds. In his career, the Nuggets improve to 23-1 at the Pepsi Center when the forward records a double-double.

• JaVale McGee finished with five blocks in tonight’s victory, marking the 22nd time in his career that he has recorded five-or-more blocks in a game (third this season).

• Corey Brewer led the bench with 22 points tonight on 11-of-20 shooting, marking the 25th time this season that he has led or tied for the team lead in points off the bench (third time in last four games). His 11 made field goals are a new career high (previous – 10 FG, accomplished five times).

• Andre Miller dished out a game-high nine assists off the bench, marking the 23rd time that he has finished a game with at least nine assists in a reserve role for the Nuggets. The Nuggets improve to 19-4 when Miller accomplishes this.

• Al Horford led the way for the Hawks with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, marking the 14th game of his career that he has reached these numbers (second this season.

TEAM

• The Nuggets beat the Clippers 107-92 and have now won 14 of their last 16 home games over the Clippers. Denver is now 24-3 when allowing fewer than 100 points this year.

• Tonight’s win is the Nuggets’ 41st of the season, ensuring a non-losing season for Denver. It is George Karl’s 21st consecutive non-losing season, tied with Phil Jackson for the longest streak in NBA history.

• Denver is now 27-3 at home and has won 12 straight games at Pepsi Center (longest single-season streak since winning 12 straight from 3/16/05 thru 4/19/05). The Nuggets’ 27-3 home record is tied with the Heat for the best home record in the NBA.

• The Nuggets shot .558 (43-77 FG) from the field tonight, moving to 10-0 at home this season and winning their 44th consecutive home game when shooting 50%-or-better. They have also won 63 of their last 64 and 82 of their last 84 home games dating back to Feb. 2007 when shooting at least 50%.

• Tonight was just the second time this season the Nuggets have shot 50+% from the field, 45+% from three and 80+% from the line in the same game (also did on 2/7 vs. CHI).

• Denver handed out 33 assists tonight, moving to 11-0 this season and winning each of their last 40 games when doing so. Denver is 85-9 in 94 games with 30+ assists under George Karl.

• Denver was 11-of-23 (.478) from beyond the arc tonight, moving to 10-2 when making nine-or-more threes.

• The Nuggets shot .833 (10-12 FG) from the free throw line are now 8-2 when shooting 80%-or-better from the line.

• Denver is now 11-2 when two players record a double-double in the same game and 17-6 when two players score 20+ in the same game.

• The Nuggets are now 28-5 when posting more points off turnovers than their opponents.