Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson has to be healthy

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Nuggets guard Ty Lawson returned to lineup on Wednesday, March 27, against the Spurs. (Photo by Keith Allison/Flickr.com)

Ty Lawson is the driver of the Denver Nuggets race car.

The speedy point guard is on the verge of superstar status after performing at a high level since the start of 2013. Lawson is averaging 16.9 points a game and 6.9 assists a game. Both are tops on the team.

When Lawson is out of the lineup, the Nuggets have a different look and feel.

Lawson, who missed three games with a heel bruise, made his return to the lineup on Wednesday, March 27, in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on the road.  The guard played only 20 minutes and scored two points. There were numerous times Lawson was wincing and seemed to be in pain. He was not himself. When he is not 100 percent, the Nuggets are not the run-and-gun team that won 15 games in a row before losing the last two.

The Nuggets lead the NBA in fast-break points at 19.6 a game. They are also third-highest scoring team in the league at 105.7 points a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder (106.2) and Houston Rockets (106.1). In three games without Lawson, the Nuggets scored 101, 101, and 86. Denver won the first two games and lost the final one in blowout fashion to the New Orleans Hornets. With Lawson on the floor on Wednesday, the Nuggets scored 99. Lawson was not on the court during the final play, which was a missed layup by Andre Miller. Rarely do the Nuggets score less than 100 and win.

Fast break, fast break, fast break is what coach George Karl preaches to his young team. While veteran Miller, who has filled in for Lawson in the last four games, is great at throwing an alley-oop, he really doesn’t get the team running off of every missed basket. Lawson does that. Lawson is the master of Karl’s offense.

The fast-break points were missing in the games he was out and were not great against the Spurs. In the last four games the Nuggets have averaged 15 fast-break points a game, almost a full five points lower than their season average. There were in close games that could decide if the Nuggets are the No. 3 seed or the No. 5 in the Western Conference.

Nine games are left on schedule and the Nuggets could need to get to 55 wins to clinch that No. 3 seed. Lawson at full speed is the key for six wins in those nine games to reach the win milestone. Fifty-five wins would also be a franchise record. Six of those nine games are at home where the Nuggets have only lost three games all year.

Lawson creates a lot of offense when he gets in the lane.  He either finishes himself sets up his teammates. He is the main reason Denver leads the league in points in the paint. During the loss to the Hornets, it was the first time in 54 games the Nuggets had not scored more points in paint than their opponent.

The Nuggets offense runs like a Ferrari with Lawson behind the wheel but without him they seem more like a Pinto stuck in the right lane with his blinker on.