Near-perfect 10: Lawson gets dialed in from long range
It took Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson 15 games to make his first 10 three-pointers of the 2010-11 season.
Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, he needed just 15 minutes.
Normally known for his playmaking ability, Lawson looked like Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and J.R. Smith all rolled into one.
Lawson became the first player in NBA history to make his first 10 three-point attempts and he scored a career-high 37 points as the Nuggets rolled to a 130-106 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Just feeling hot. I drank that J.R. juice in the morning,” Lawson said. “I just felt in a rhythm and started knocking down shots. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Lawson was in position to set an NBA record for most three-pointers in a game without a miss, but he was long on a runner from the right wing as time expired in the third quarter. He sat out most of the final quarter and finished short of the NBA record of 12 threes held by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall.
“It was a show,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “It was fun being a part of it. I’m sure the fans enjoyed it.”
With the sellout crowd rising with every shot, Lawson – who, incidentally, wears jersey No. 3 – tied Smith’s franchise record by hitting seven three-pointers in the third quarter and he outscored the Timberwolves 24-18.
“He was hot. I was joking with him that he couldn’t shoot that good,” said Minnesota swingman Wayne Ellington, who played with Lawson at the University of North Carolina. “I’ve seen him take over games before, but never like that from the three-point line.”
After missing his first four shots, Lawson was scoreless before converting two free throws midway through the second quarter. He made his first three-pointer with 3:39 left before halftime and drained nine more over the next 15 minutes.
“Ty played out of his mind,” Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin said. “I wanted him to shoot every time. I wanted him to pull up on the break. I told him, ‘Hey, pull up on the break like Chauncey (Billups) one time for me.’ He had it going.”
With Lawson raining threes, the Nuggets (49-31) moved one win from a high-five.
Denver clinched at least a tie with the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. One more win or a Blazers loss will lock it up for the Nuggets, who have won 11 of their past 12 at home and 17 of 23 since the All-Star break.
“We’ve had injuries, we’ve had problems, we’ve had circumstances and we continued to stay focused enough to win basketball games,” Karl said. “That’s a compliment to a lot of guys. It’s fun to be part of that, and it’s fun to be peaking at the right time with the attitude and enthusiasm to see what we can do in the playoffs.”
After completing a stretch of four games in five nights, the Nuggets are battling a war of attrition.
Already without Arron Afflalo (strained hamstring), Chris Andersen (sprained ankle), Wilson Chandler (sore ankle) and Timofey Mozgov (sprained knee and ankle), Denver lost starting forward Danilo Gallinari to a sprained right ankle in the first quarter.
Gallinari is averaging 14.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 14 games since joining the Nuggets on Feb. 22.
“It’s one of the injuries I’ve never had really,” he said. “I never tape (my ankles). I don’t like taping. It’s the first time twisting it really bad. It’s painful, but it’s not too serious. We’ve just got to be pretty aggressive with the treatment and I’ll be fine.”
Getting healthy will be a priority for the Nuggets in their final two games at home Monday against the Golden State Warriors and on the road Wednesday against the Utah Jazz.
Afflalo and Andersen are close to returning, while Karl thinks Chandler could return for the season-finale. Mozgov is not expected to be ready before the end of the regular season.
“We don’t want to go into the playoffs minus guys,” Martin said. “Health is the most important thing right now.”
ETC: Nuggets point guard Raymond Felton had 14 assists, the most by a Denver player since Billups had 14 on Dec. 12, 2008 … Nene made all five of his field-goal attempts but went 0-for-8 from the free-throw line. He is 16-for-40 from the line in his past seven games. “I’m a good shooter,” he said. “All you can do is smile. I’ll make them in the playoffs.” … Smith hit six three-pointers to help the Nuggets set a franchise record with 19 threes … Denver has won 16 of 17 against Minnesota … Gary Forbes started in Chandler’s place and scored 10 points. He was one of eight Nuggets in double figures.