Ty Lawson is out. Danilo Gallinari is out. The Denver Nuggets are not down, however. Even with the two top scorers for the Nuggets having to sit out due to injury, the team still managed to put up 132 points against the playoff-bound Houston Rockets.
The Nuggets beat the Rockets in all four games this season and in doing so this time ended the Rockets’ four-game winning streak. They also won their 20th straight at the Pepsi Center, showing they can win games without key starters. Gallinari is out for the rest of the season, but Lawson’s return is aimed for before the postseason gets underway.
“I think he should play (before the playoffs start),” Coach George Karl said. “It might not be 100 percent. He has to learn how to play when it’s 70 or 80 percent. Can we get 25 minutes a game out of him? You don’t want to determine that in the first two games of the playoffs.”
Coach Karl makes a great point. It’s hard to get back to speed when coming back from injury, and the place to get up to playing speed is certainly not in a crucial playoff game. If Lawson can come back with one or two games left and readjust to the action, even if he’s not 100 percent, he would still be a great help to the effort of making it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Lawson might have to play in some pain when first coming back, and we can only hope he doesn’t suffer a re-injury. It’s good to be patient, but we also have to think about the here and now. Denver’s chances are greatly improved of going further in the playoffs if Lawson is on the floor.
With Gallinari missing the rest of the season, the subs and reserves for the Nuggets will have to show Coach Karl they can contribute regularly. In a huge win over the Rockets, Wilson Chandler showed once again that he can be an effective starter. He got the nod in place of Gallinari and scored 21 points on nine for 15 shooting. He added six rebounds and was one of seven Nuggets to score in double-digits.
Andre Miller is still getting the start for Lawson, and he continues to help the team win games down the homestretch. He scored 11, dished out 12 assists and showed he can keep the pace fast despite being 37 years old.
Andre Iguodala also went on a tear against the Rockets. He scored 18, added 14 assists and seven rebounds. More important than that though, he pretty much shut down James Harden, allowing him only two made field goals on ten attempts. Iguodala’s defensive presence continues to awe, and without him, the Nuggets would certainly allow a lot more points.
Corey Brewer also continues to shine while the starters suffer injuries. Coming off the bench against Houston, he led the team in scoring (22) and plus/minus rating (+23). Evan Fournier and Anthony Randolph are getting substantially more minutes and are showing they are part of a really deep team.
With only five games left in the regular season, the Nuggets will most assuredly lock up the third seed for the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs are next up on the schedule. They come into town Wednesday night, and the Nuggets hope to even the season series at two wins apiece. They also hope to extend their home winning streak to 21 straight.
Even without top scorers Lawson and Gallinari, the Nuggets continue to show their depth and determination. Once Lawson is back, the team will be that much more of a threat to make a run to the Western Conference finals. However, even without Lawson and Gallinari, the Nuggets have shown they are still dangerous and a team not to be counted out.