If you were to tell me a few weeks ago that Ty Lawson would soon be nursing an injury, missing playing time and sitting on the bench for a game-winning opportunity, I would’ve figured the Denver Nuggets would be out of the fight for home-court advantage in the NBA playoffs. As we know, that is not the case.
The Nuggets have managed to hover around the third seed and with only eight games to go in the regular season it looks as though they might actually secure the home advantage. Coach George Karl has pushed the team through its injury woes with help from the starting lineup and players coming off the bench.
Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kosta Koufos and Kenneth Faried all find ways to contribute to winning efforts and Andre Miller has stepped up to start for the absent Lawson. The starters play their game, but somewhat of a surprise to a lot is the way the reserves have come in to shine as well.
Rookie Evan Fournier was the reserve to shine in the Nuggets’ last game against the Brooklyn Nets. With Lawson sitting out, Fournier played 20 minutes and scored a career-high and team-high 19 points. He shot six for nine, made all six of his free-throw attempts and led the team with a +22 plus/minus.
The Nuggets cruised to a 109-87 victory behind the efforts of Fournier and Coach Karl commented on his performance.
“I can’t say I know exactly what Evan’s contribution is going to be,” Karl said. “There’s no way I expected what I got. I don’t know if it’s going to be two games or six games or seven games he’s going to play before Ty gets back in the rotation. The one thing I love about him is he’s a confident kid. I think he was genuinely annoyed that people were surprised that he played well.”
Fournier is a testament to how just about anybody on the Nuggets’ roster can go out and have a huge game. Smart coaching and clutch playing has helped the Nuggets get to where they are heading into the postseason.
If the Nuggets keep playing hot as a team and if Lawson gets to 100 percent soon they will certainly make other teams in the NBA nervous about matching up with them in a series.