DENVER – Ty Lawson was sidelined by a fractured rib, but he wasn’t idle. The Denver Nuggets guard studied his game while recovering for nearly a month, and it has paid dividends.
Lawson had 30 points and tied a career high with 17 assists, forward Kenneth Faried scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 134-126 on Friday.
Forward Wilson Chandler scored 19 points for the Nuggets, who had all five starters score in double figures in their second straight win.
“Great individual efforts (by) Ty and Kenneth,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Great balance in our starting lineup. It’s a win, we’ll take it. Good for us to finish on this note before we head out on this road trip and build up some confidence.”
Denver (27-34) is a vastly different team with Lawson healthy. Without him, the Nuggets lost eight of nine and were non-competitive in most of the losses.
Lawson had to watch his team fall out of the playoff race, but he used the time to improve his game.
“When you sit out you watch a lot of tape, you watch a lot of games,” Lawson said. “I could see things that were open that I wasn’t taking. It’s been helping. Shooting threes, and now making them, has opened the rest of my game – the mid-range and getting to the basket. Also getting more assists.”
His quickness and ability to create shots off the dribble has opened up Denver’s offense and put pressure on opposing defenses.
It was never more evident than late in the first half when he used a crossover to put Los Angeles guard Jodie Meeks on his rear and feed center Timofey Mozgov for an easy layup.
Center Pau Gasol had 27 points and guard Jordan Farmar scored 24 points off the bench for Los Angeles (21-41).
This is shaping up to be the Lakers’ worst season in 39 years, and it hit a low point with a 48-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. That was the largest margin of defeat in franchise history and the largest in the NBA this season, and it came on the heels of allowing 132 points to New Orleans on Tuesday.
“You can’t win that way. We are trying everything we can do,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t know if the air has gone out or we are tired or what the problem is.”
Despite playing their fourth game in five nights, the Lakers were buoyed by the fact that Brooklyn came to Denver last week on the heels of a 44-point loss in Portland and won easily.
The Nuggets scored just eight points in the first quarter against the Nets, but with Lawson in the lineup they put up 42 in the first quarter on Friday to set the tone against the Lakers that lasted the entire game.
“Coach said he wanted us to score 40 a quarter,” Lawson said. “He said he wanted us to get 160. There wasn’t much defense being played but we won nonetheless.”
Denver, which shot 54.5 percent from the field for the night, led 77-66 at halftime and eclipsed 100 points with 3:14 left in the third quarter. Lawson, Faried and Chandler were a combined 31-for-41 from the field heading into the fourth quarter with the Nuggets leading 110-91.
“Our defense needs to get better,” Lakers center Robert Sacre said. “If we give teams an average of 140 points every night it’s not good enough.”
The Lakers made a little push early in the fourth quarter, getting within 13 on rookie forward Ryan Kelly’s layup with 7:40 left, but five quick points by Denver ended hopes of a comeback.
Kelly finished with 24 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
D’Antoni said he didn’t get upset with the result.
“They’re good guys. It’s not like you can go in there and yell at them,” he said. “They’re trying, and they’re trying to put everything into it, they’re trying to figure it out. Sometimes they get outmanned or outmatched.”
NOTES: Nuggets G Ty Lawson was in the lineup despite jamming his left heel during Wednesday night’s win over Dallas. He left the game in the third quarter but returned in the fourth. He did some shooting Thursday but did not participate in the full practice. … Los Angeles ranks fourth in the NBA in 3-point shooting. The Lakers are averaging 9.4 made 3-pointers per game. … Denver’s bench came into Friday night’s game third in the league in scoring (38.8 points per game) and first in rebounding (18 per game). … The Lakers have used 29 different starting lineups this season.
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