Nuggets face speed trap without point guard Ty Lawson
Denver's fleet-footed floor leader still dealing with nagging heel injury
It’s a small sample size, but the radar gun tells the story.
With point guard Ty Lawson out of the lineup, the Nuggets lose some speed off their fastball.
In 69 games with their fleet-footed floor leader, the Nuggets are averaging 106.1 points per game. In the four games that he has missed, the average drops to 95.5.
“There’s no question it’s a fun team to coach,” Denver coach George Karl said Thursday. “It’s a little harder, though, when Ty’s not out there.”
The Nuggets (49-24) could be without Lawson again Friday night when they face the Brooklyn Nets at Pepsi Center.
After missing three straight games with a bruised/strained right heel, Lawson played less than 20 minutes Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. He scored two points on 1-of-7 shooting and didn’t return after the 4:48 mark of the third quarter.
“I was just trying to get him enough minutes to where he would move forward a little bit,” Karl said. “There’s no question he was limited. Sometimes you’ve got to play injured players back into it before they can feel comfortable with their injury.”
Lawson, averaging a team-leading 16.7 points and 6.9 assists, did some work in the weight room and received treatment Thursday.
While the Nuggets could Lawson’s scoring and playmaking as they try to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, they also want to be smart about his injury.
Is it better for him to play through the injury, or would Denver be better served by having him at full speed when the playoffs start in three weeks?
Veteran point guard Andre Miller and Lawson discussed that topic in San Antonio.
“I knew he’d been nursing his heel for a while, so I just told him to get rested up and get his body right for the playoffs,” Miller said. “When he feels healthy enough to come back, we’ll be ready for him.”
Karl believes there’s a middle ground.
“I have no problem resting, but you can’t give up your edge,” he said. “Injuries take the edge away. How long will it take for Ty to get the edge back? That scares me.”
Lawson’s absence certainly has an impact beyond the box score.
With Miller moving into the starting lineup, it disrupts the chemistry he has developed with reserves Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee.
Karl also doesn’t have the option of putting multiple playmakers on the court in late-game situations. Lawson and Miller often are part of a finishing lineup that also includes underrated passers Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala.
“The creativity of our team is Ty and Andre,” Karl said. “It starts with those two guys. Now you don’t have the ability to play them by themselves and together. It sounds like a little thing. It’s not a little thing.”
Lawson is one of two injured point guards on Denver’s roster.
Julyan Stone sprained the MCL in his right knee on Monday and is expected to miss approximately two weeks. That leaves rookie Evan Fournier as an emergency option.
“I’m not afraid to play him,” Karl said. “Evan is a good playmaker as an off-guard. His position is not point guard. I think he’s going to get better there.
“To throw him into big-pressure games and give him the ball and run an offense? There’s a lot of variables that you’re throwing at a young player. I think he could hit a home run every once in a while. Could he hit a home run every day? I don’t know if I’d bet on that one.”
NETS AT NUGGETS
WHEN: 7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950
F Gerald Wallace
F Reggie Evans
C Brook Lopez
G Joe Johnson
G Deron Williams
DENVER: Ty Lawson (heel) is a game-time decision; Julyan Stone (knee) is out.
BROOKLYN: Joe Johnson (quad) is questionable).
Denver has won five straight at home vs. the Nets and six of the last eight at home … Prior to winning three of the last six road meetings against the Nets, Denver had lost six straight from 2000-01 to 2005-06 … The Nuggets have won seven of the last 11 games overall against the Nets, dating back to 2006-07 … The Nuggets and Nets split the season series in 2010-11 for third time in the last five seasons … Denver’s loss at New Jersey in 2008-09 tied the fourth-largest loss in Nuggets franchise history (114-70 at New Jersey on 2/7/09) … The Nets hold the Nuggets team record for most blocked shots in a game by an opposing team (22 at New Jersey on 12/12/91).