Lawson shakes off rust in return for Nuggets

Denver point guard goes for 31 points, 11 assists in first game since Feb. 8
by Aaron Lopez

It took a couple quarters and a jolt to the midsection to shake off the rust, but Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson was back to his playmaking, point-producing self Monday night at Pepsi Center.

Playing his first game in more than three weeks, Lawson scored 29 of his 31 points in the second half of Denver’s 132-128 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He also added 11 assists and four steals before fouling out with 16.5 second left.

“I was just being more aggressive,” Lawson said of his big second half. “I was being tentative, still worried about my rib until I got hit one time at the end of the second quarter. I just said I was going to go all out and it worked for me.”

Lawson missed nine straight games after suffering a fractured rib Feb. 8 at Detroit, with Denver going 1-8 during that stretch.

His return wasn’t enough to help the Nuggets emerge from their slump; Denver continued to struggle defensively against Minnesota and lost for the sixth straight game.

The Nuggets (25-34) gave up 40 points in the first quarter and never recovered as the Timberwolves withstood a late fourth-quarter flurry. Minnesota converted 52-of-64 free throws to set franchise records for makes and attempts.

“We gave up too many points in the first quarter,” Lawson said. “When we play uphill like that, it’s tough to come back and get the win. We have to start off early and bring intensity in all of the quarters, not just the end.”

As Lawson tried to get his legs under him, his teammates also went through a brief adjustment period. Denver committed 13 of its 18 turnovers in the first half and trailed by 17 at the break.

“I think that we kind of sat around thinking he was going to save the day and we were going to ride his cape,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “Everyone was kind of sitting around waiting for something to happen.”

Lawson made things happen in the second half, helping Denver chip away at Minnesota’s 23-point lead. He went 11-for-16 from the field by attacking the rim, knocking down 3-pointers and converting mid-range jump shots.

“Ty is the man,” said Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer, who spent two seasons with Lawson in Denver. “Ty’s tough to stop. Tonight he was doing his thing. He was making his shots. When he’s in the mid-range, he’s almost unguardable.”

When the Minnesota defense converged, Lawson set up his teammates for easy baskets inside and open jumpers on the perimeter.

Among the beneficiaries were forwards Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried. Chandler finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Faried added 21 points and eight rebounds.

Randy Foye, who had been playing big minutes at point guard in Lawson’s absence, hit four three-pointers and scored 22 points. It marked the first time since Nov. 15, 1995, that the Nuggets had a 30-point scorer and three 20-point scorers in the same game.

“It doesn’t matter,” Shaw said. “If we don’t play any defense, we don’t give ourselves a chance to win.”

With or without Lawson.