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Streaking Lawson ready to lead Nuggets against Bulls

Denver point guard gets early season test against Chicago counterpart Derrick Rose



NBA story problem:

Point guard A is averaging 22 points and 8.6 assists per game. Point guard B is averaging 15 points and 4.5 assists per game. Which one is the former MVP and three-time All-Star – Ty Lawson or Derrick Rose.

Heading into Thursday’s game against Rose and the Chicago Bulls, Lawson is putting up numbers worthy of an All-Star while serving as the engine that powers the Denver Nuggets.

The nationally televised showdown against Rose will give Lawson an opportunity to display his coast-to-coast game for NBA fans from coast to coast.

“Obviously that’s a matchup that a lot of people want to see,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Ty’s playing at a very high level. Derrick Rose, we know what he’s capable as well as a former MVP.” While Rose is still trying to find a rhythm after sitting out last season recovering from knee surgery, Lawson is hitting his stride under Shaw.

Lawson, typically a slow starter, is off to the best 10-game start of his five-year NBA career; he is the only player in the league averaging more than 20 points and eight assists.

“Feeling good all around,” he said. “Just attacking and being aggressive. When I’m aggressive, it makes things happen. I just have to continue to keep that going.”

During the preseason, there was some question of how Lawson would adapt to Shaw’s inside-out offense, which differed from the drive-and-kick emphasis under former coach George Karl.

After some early hiccups, Lawson quickly found a comfort zone.

“It’s an adjustment period,” he said. “I was just trying to figure out the offense and run the plays to get the plays down. The last two preseason games, I started attacking and it carried over to the regular season.”

Lawson scored 57 points and handed out 25 assists during Denver’s recent two-game road trip. For the Nuggets try to get back on track, Shaw believes they will have to match the physicality of Chicago big men Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

“Our bigs are going to have their hands full,” Shaw said. “That may be kind of the subplot that steals the show from (Lawson and Rose).”

It certainly will be a clash of styles. The Nuggets are seventh in the NBA in scoring (104.4 points per game) have averaged 113 points in their past four. The Bulls have the second-stingiest defense in the NBA, allowing 89 points per game.

“Our offensive execution has to be on point,” Shaw said. “Typically, their games are lower-scoring games and they’re kind of an ugly, grind-it-out style. You have to be able to score, which means you have to take care of the ball and get a shot on every possession.”

It helps that the ball will be in Lawson’s hands most of the time. Among his other superlative statistics, he has a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is shooting .455 from the field.

With All-Star voting in its first week, Lawson certainly is building a strong foundation for his campaign.

“I would like to put it on my resume,” he said. “Right now, I’m just playing hard and seeing where it takes me. Hopefully it takes me there. If not, keep working harder.”


BULLS AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
8:30 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: TNT; AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER (4-6)

F Wilson Chandler
F Kenneth Faried
C J.J. Hickson
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

CHICAGO (6-3)
F Luol Deng
F Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah
G Kirk Hinrich
G Derrick Rose

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Nate Robinson (wrist) is day-to-day; Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (fractured left tibia) are out.
CHICAGO: Jimmy Butler (right toe) is out.

SERIES NOTES
The Nuggets have won six straight and 12 of the last 13 against the Bulls at Pepsi Center, dating back to 1999-2000 . . . Chicago’s last win in Denver came on Feb. 8, 2006 . . . Denver swept the season series against Chicago 2-0 in 2012-13, marking just the second series win for the Nuggets over the Bulls since 2003-04) . . . The 2010-11 season marked the sixth time in the last nine years that the season series ended in a 1-1 split . . . The Bulls have not won a season series against the Nuggets since 1997-98 (2-0) . . . Chicago's four-game losing streak versus the Nuggets is its longest current skid against a single opponent.