Lawson Spices Up a Drab Victory

He barely played 15 minutes, and his stat line wasn't eye-popping, but this was Ty Lawson's game. Both for what he did and the potential he showed for what he can do.

The newest Pacers player finally made his second appearance in Monday's 91-75 victory over Philadelphia, exactly two weeks after his debut against San Antonio. His sprained left foot adequately healed, he had a better opportunity to unveil his wares than in his earlier five-minute test run, when he suffered his injury.

Lawson was by far the most interesting element of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which otherwise alternated between boring and frustrating but ultimately was satisfying and necessary for the Pacers. They remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one-half game ahead of both Chicago and Detroit but within 3 ½ games of Miami in third. Statistically, their remaining schedule is the easiest in the NBA, which gives them hope for upward mobility.

Philadelphia, a team that stands at 9-62 with 11 games to go, offered the best possible opponent with which to begin their forgiving eight-game scheduling stretch. The 76ers are well-coached and generally give a strong effort, but simply lack the talent and experience to compete in the NBA, as they prove nearly every time they take the court. They lost their first 18 games of the season and have lost 23 of their last 25, with the only two wins coming over Brooklyn, the league's third-worst team.

The Pacers jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first quarter and coasted until the 76ers got within two in the third, then ran off eight consecutive points to resume control. Afterward, they admitted they had been complacent at times. That was mostly true on offense, where they failed to show the movement and aggression that enabled them to lead Oklahoma City in the fourth quarter on Saturday. "Disjointed," was how Vogel described it.

"It's on us," said Paul George, who hit just 4-of-16 shots but finished with a 15 points, highest among the starters, all of whom finished in double figures. "We've got to do a better job of making sure the game flows. Sometimes we do a lot of randomness out there."

Lawson could be an antidote for that. He might not be the quickest player on the roster – coach Frank Vogel gives that nod to rookie Joe Young – but he's certainly the fastest getting up and down the court and the best at knowing what to do with the ball. His passes are quick and precise, he's a master pick-and-roll conductor, he can get into the lane nearly anytime he wants and he's a 3-point threat as well.

"He's a true point guard," George said. "He's so fast and he knows his ability to get to the rim. We really need him to be a facilitator and get guys easy looks."

Lawson first made his presence felt in the second quarter, when he hit a 3-pointer off C.J. Miles' assist to open a 28-20 lead. 80 seconds of game clock later, he fed Rodney Stuckey for a 3-pointer on a ball reversal. He hit another 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, pulling up in transition just ahead of the buzzer. He had an impressive assist in the fourth period, hitting a cutting Stuckey for a layup with a bounce pass, and later added a hockey assist when he fed Lavoy Allen with a quick pass into the lane that was relayed to the wing, where Stuckey hit another 3-pointer.

Lawson played just 15 minutes and 10 seconds, as Vogel stuck to the limit prescribed by the training staff. He wasn't aware of the limit, and said he could have played longer. He feels only brief jolts of pain in his foot, and didn't get fatigued.

"Whatever he wants me to do," Lawson said. "The foot is feeling good. Whenever they take the limit off, I feel ready."

Lawson isn't widely regarded as a 3-point threat, but has shown flashes of being able to shoot it, including one historic explosion. He hit better than 40 percent of his attempts his first two seasons and then gradually declined. He hit just 33 percent with Houston earlier this season, a reflection of being out of sorts with the offense.

"When I'm in a rhythm and have my feet set, I knock them down," he said.

That was especially true one night late in his second NBA season, when he hit his first 10 3-pointers against Minnesota. He didn't hit one until 3:39 was left in the second quarter, but hit three more in less than two minutes later in the period, then had another run of three in the final 2:39 of the third quarter to reach 10. His only miss came when he casually flipped one up at the third-quarter buzzer, unaware he had set a league record for consecutive makes to start a game.

"I didn't know it was a record," he said. "I probably would have held it."

His 3-point shooting will be a bonus with the Pacers, however. He's there primarily to speed up the tempo and get into the lane to distribute. Vogel said he'll tweak the offense to take advantage of his strengths, but the adjustment should be minimal. Lawson ran a similar offense two seasons ago in Denver, when former Pacers assistant Brian Shaw was the head coach. He averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists that season, and considers it the best of his career.

"I know it and I like it," he said of the offense.

The other Pacers can't wait to get to know him better. They like what they see so far.

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