After some up-and-down play of late from the Nuggets starting point guard, tonight, Ty Lawson delivered in a big way. The Nuggets now lead the season series against the Lakers 2-1, with one more dance in Denver on February 25th.
With the tired Nuggets on another road back to back and struggling through a pulled left Achilles, Lawson (9-18, 21pts, 10 ast, 3 stl, 0 to) put the Nuggets on his back en route to an excellent 112-105 road victory at the Lakers. He had a variety of nifty layups and jumpers to go along with some heady point play, setting up McGee, Iguodala and Koufos all night.
It's hard to overstate just how much Ty outplayed Steve Nash (3-8, 10 pts, 13 ast, 3 rebs, 5 turnovers) tonight. Nash looked like he was wearing cement shoes while Ty blew by him on drive after drive, and when he wasn't getting torched by Ty's wheels, he was passing the ball out of bounds. Despite some nifty passes and crafty layups, Nash's star is fading to younger points like Lawson.
Meanwhile, JaVale "Mark Kizsla who?" McGee had a spectacular night of his own. JaVale (7-9, 17 pts, 6 rebs, 3 stl, 2 blk, 1 to) was active in the paint throughout his 26 minutes. He had a number of thunderous dunks even with the menace of Dwight Howard in the paint - who had a great game in his own right, collecting 14 points and 26 boards (career high).
Yet despite Dwight's big night, it was his errant pass into an outstretched arm of JaVale McGee that truly gave the Nuggets the extra little bit of life they needed tonight. McGee kept the silly play to a minimum and was extraordinarily effective (+14) all night. It's great to see him getting more burn from Karl, even in the 4th quarter. He still had some bad rotations and poor boxouts, but every game shows improvement.
Pau Gasol (5-9, 11 pts, 5 rebs, 3 ast, 2 blk) had a decent night but was unable to stay with McGee's length, and learned firsthand just how effective JaVale can be with what appeared to be a broken nose (pouring blood onto the court and Scott Hastings and Chris Marlowe) after contacting one of McGee's lengthy wings.
Andre Iguodala (6-14, 15 pts, 7 ast, 6 rebs, 1 blk, 1 to) continues to play of late with a sense of purpose so lacking from his efforts earlier this year. He played incredible defense on Kobe Bryant (11-26, 29 pts, 7 ast, 5 reb, 2 to) who, if not for a pair of "only Kobe" threes near the end of the fourth, would have been held to an anemic 9-24 for 23 points.
Iguodala is starting to understand that, yes, it's okay to take that elbow jumper, or not always pass to your teammates in the lane. I sort of think it's a peculiar sense of honor and respect for the Nuggets organization that's hindered Iggy to this point. That is, in some way, he needs to be deferential to the players who've been here through the rough last few years and not attempt to take over. With 36 games under their belt together, Iguodala is starting to realize that his teammates recognize his greatness, and that it's okay for him to take the tough and difficult shots.
Danilo Gallinari (6-20, 20 pts, 6 rebs, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 1 to) didn't have a great night overall, but he hit some critically clutch shots when needed most. The series loss to the Lakers last season clearly stuck in his craw, and when he got a lucky deflection off a Howard block at the end of the game, he made the most of it. Met with a chestbump at half court by his exulting teammates, Gallo's showing that he's not afraid to step up in crunch time when needed to- although I would still like to see better assertiveness in the closing minutes from the team as a whole.
Lastly, credit where credit is due to Andre Miller. Old man Miller (4-10, 12 pts, 10 ast, 3 reb, 1 to) found his teammates all night and scored some excellent elbow jumpers when the Nuggets needed his steadying hand. Somehow, he has a preternatural connection with JaVale on oops and rolls to the hoop, as the two are hooking up on plays as never before. At one point, Miller passed the ball from near halfcourt to a baseline cutting McGee for a dunk that rattled the STAPLES Center to its roof. Dre, like the rest of the team, has had up and down play, but when he's "up", I really can't think of many other backup points I would rather have on the Nuggets. He's truly one of the best floor generals and "basketball IQ" guys in the game. He also should take his teammates on some free throw shooting exercises.
What a big win against a veteran team loaded with all stars by the third youngest team in the league. When the Nuggets could have made yet more excuses about tired legs on the second night of a back to back away, they showed up, played smart, and pulled out a gutty road win against an ever more desperate Lakers squad.
The Nuggets (20-16) do not play again until Wednesday, when they will be visited by old friends Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and the Orlando Magic.
Oh, and don't forget: we got tacos!!!
Opposition's take: Silver Screen and Roll