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Point guard matchup set to take spotlight at Pepsi Center

Nuggets floor leader Ty Lawson putting up Chris Paul-like numbers

Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala matched his season-high with 29 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 27.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Both starred in the ACC before taking their point guard skills to the NBA.

Both were first-round picks drafted into the Western Conference.

Both stand about 6-feet tall and are a blur in the open court.

Both are capable of scoring 25 points or handing out 10 assists on any given night. CP3 and TL3.

While Chris Paul has a proven track record of All-Star appearances and Olympic glory, Ty Lawson is making a case for himself when the conversation turns to elite point guards in the NBA.

The two playmakers will square off Thursday when Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers face the Nuggets at Pepsi Center.

“Ty’s great. Him leading their team, it’s the best thing they could have had happened,” Paul said. “He’s playing with unbelievable confidence.”

Consider this: Those comments were made after the Clippers faced the Nuggets in a preseason game on Oct. 25. Lawson’s production and confidence have increased dramatically since then.

In 24 games since Jan. 13, Lawson is averaging 20.8 points and 7.5 assists in 24 games. Tony Parker is the only other player averaging at least 20 points and seven assists in that span.

While happy with his productivity, Lawson knows he must produce a bigger body of work to earn comparisons to Paul.

“I see a couple similarities,” he said. “I just have to keep working and maybe get to level where he is right now. He’s definitely where I want to be.”

While a big fan of his own young point guard, Nuggets coach George Karl has always admired Paul’s professionalism, leadership and killer instinct – traits that complement his skills as a defender, scorer and playmaker.

“I think Chris Paul’s tenacity … he’s one of the guys that I think almost wills wins,” Karl said. “Not only is he very talented and very skilled, but he has an approach and attitude to the game that beating him is offensive to him.”

Paul has helped elevate the Clippers to a top-three team in the Western Conference, but Lawson and the Nuggets (40-22) aren’t far behind.

Denver trails the Memphis Grizzlies by one game for the No. 4 spot in the West and are three games behind the third-seeded Clippers. The Nuggets will play Memphis at home on March 15.

“I hate making predictions, but the month of March will tell us if we’re in that position (for the 3 seed),” Karl said. “Our team has to realize you can’t have a flat game and let someone who didn’t play well still win a game. I don’t think we’re going to go (undefeated), but we can’t beat ourselves.”

Surging since the All-Star break, the Nuggets have won six in a row overall and 11 straight at home. It is the third time in team history that Denver has posted three win streaks of at least six games in the same season.

Lawson and fellow point guard Andre Miller helped the Nuggets reach a half-dozen Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings.

Lawson finished with 24 points and seven assists, while Miller scored 10 points in the fourth quarter of a 120-113 road victory. Danilo Gallinari added 23 points and Kenneth Faried had 19 points and 12 rebounds.

“That’s kind of how our team is,” Karl said. “You never know who’s going to grab the steering wheel and who’s going to drive us home. People don’t think that’s good. I think it’s a pretty versatile asset to have.”

The Clippers will put Denver’s winning streak to the test. Los Angeles has won five straight road games, with Paul averaging 23.6 points and 10.8 assists during that stretch..

Prototypical CP3 numbers.

More and more, they are also becoming synonymous with Ty Lawson.


CLIPPERS AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
8:30 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: TNT; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

F Danilo Gallinari
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Ty Lawson

LOS ANGELES
F Caron Butler
F Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan
G Chauncey Billups
G Chris Paul

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
No injuries to report.
LOS ANGELES: Trey Thompkins (left knee bone bruise).

SERIES NOTES
The Nuggets have won 15 of the last 24 games overall against the Clippers since 2006-07, with seven of the nine losses coming in Los Angeles (13-2 at home, 2-7 on road) … Denver has played the Clippers solidly in Los Angeles in recent years, having gone 5-7 against the Clip-joint at STAPLES Center over the past seven seasons … Denver has claimed five season series wins over Los Angeles in the last eight seasons … The 2010-11 season marked the first 2-2 series split between these teams since the 2003-04 season, not to mention only the fourth since 1993-94 … The Nuggets currently own an all-time winning percentage of .553 (83-67) against the Clippers, which stands as the best mark for Denver against any opponent in the NBA with at least 100 meetings between them.