Bob Leverone/Associated Press
Bob Leverone/Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Ty Lawson has set a goal for the Denver Nuggets as they close the regular season: 18 wins.
Denver took a step in the right direction Saturday night, pulling away from the Charlotte Bobcats in the fourth quarter for a 113-99 win that snapped a four-game road losing streak.
Lawson had a team-high 20 points, marking the 13th time in 19 games he’s reached the 20-point plateau, and JaVale McGee had 17 points, including seven of his team’s 14 dunks.
“If we get to 53 or 54 (wins) I think that we’ll get that fourth seed” in the playoffs, Lawson said. “But we know it’s going to be a grind for the next couple weeks, couple months.”
Perhaps not – if Lawson keeps playing the way he has.
Nuggets coach George Karl said Lawson has developed a better understanding of the rhythm of the game and is becoming more assertive in running the offense. He also said Lawson is gaining confidence with his jumper, something he didn’t have earlier this season.
The rest, Karl said, might be out of his hands.
“If he got a fair whistle, he would probably score a lot more points,” Karl said.
At several points during the game Karl argued for a foul to be called against the Bobcats. He was slapped with a technical foul when he offered a sarcastic response to the referees after a call finally went his way.
“Ty sometimes is so strong and so quick, I think he gets hit, but he doesn’t get knocked off balance,” Karl said. “As we are aware, a foul is a foul. I have always felt that skinny guys get more calls than strong fullback-type guys. Ty has that body that, you know, he is as fast as anyone in the game, but he doesn’t ever get knocked off balance, and because of that I don’t think he gets as many calls as he deserves.”
Lawson said the big difference in recent weeks has been being more aggressive and attacking the basket.
“I figure when I start being aggressive and getting to the lane, things happen for me whether it’s scoring or getting assists,” Lawson said.
The Nuggets hadn’t won on the road since Jan. 23 but scored 66 points in the paint behind 14 dunks to snap the skid.
Lawson had nine of his 20 points in the final quarter and handed out five assists as the Nuggets broke open a close game early in the fourth with a flurry of fast-break points.
Kenneth Faried finished with 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting, Corey Brewer had 14, and Andre Iguodala scored a double-double – 13 points and 10 assists.
“We just played Nuggets basketball,” Faried said. “We ran and were able to get those turnovers, so it helped out on the break.”
The Nuggets (35-22), who came in having lost four of their last five overall, led 83-74 entering the fourth quarter.
That’s when Lawson took over, repeatedly driving to the hole for easy baskets. Forced to defend Lawson, the Nuggets moved the ball well, resulting in some easy alley-oop dunks for Faried and McGee.
Lawson finally sealed it with about five minutes to play when he put the ball between his legs, freezing Kemba Walker, and drove to the basket to score and draw the foul to push the lead to 15.
The Nuggets came in third in the league in scoring and got their high-flying act in gear with nine dunks in the first half to build a 60-54 lead at the break.
Denver shot 53 percent for the game.
Walker recorded his fourth consecutive 20-point game for the Bobcats, finishing with 24 on 9 of 14 shooting. Gerald Henderson added 19 points, and rookie Jeffery Taylor had 18 for the Bobcats, who have lost 11 of their last 13 – including three in a row at home.
Denver forced 18 Charlotte turnovers, leading to 23 points.
“We had a lot of turnovers that led to a lot of fast-break points for them,” Taylor said. “We usually keep our turnover count down, so that was a little uncharacteristic for us.”
Things won’t get much easier for the NBA-worst Bobcats (13-43) as they depart on a four-game trip beginning Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap was pleased with his team’s energy but agreed that turnovers were the difference.
“We’d turn it over, and they’d get an easy basket,” Dunlap said.