For the second straight night, the Denver Nuggets went into the closing seconds of a matchup with a Western Conference foe needing a late-game bucket to secure a win. And for the second straight night, emerging beast Ty Lawson sealed the deal.
With the score knotted at 116 following a Tyreke Evans layup late in the extra frame, Lawson took the ball up top and stared down the Sacramento defense. There was about a second and a half of differential between the shot clock and the game clock, so he'd have to leave at least a little bit of time on the clock for a rebuttal. Up to that point, the University of North Carolina product had missed nine of his 15 field-goal attempts, including a handful of tries outside the paint and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
But when Evans got lost on a Kenneth Faried screen — to be frank, as Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller noted, Evans "was flat on his feet the whole time" — the Nuggets point guard took advantage of the extra space to rise and fire. And one night after delivering the dagger to put away the San Antonio Spurs, Lawson added the Kings to his hit list.
Here's the shot, chosen as NBA.com's Play of the Day for Monday's slate:
Bang. Francisco Garcia's attempt to answer at the other end fell short, giving Denver a 119-116 overtime victory.
It's worth noting, of course, that Lawson never would have been in a position to deliver his overtime heroics if Denver shooting guard Arron Afflalo had not both balled out (scoring 30 of his career-high 32 in regulation) and extended the game by knocking down three gigantic free throws after being fouled by Kings guard Marcus Thornton with six-tenths of a second remaining in the fourth quarter.
Following the game, Thornton initially "insisted he didn't touch Afflalo on the shot," according to Pat Graham of The Associated Press, although replays showed him connecting with Afflalo's arm on the attempt. Later, though, Graham reports that Thornton "took full responsibility" for the play: "It's on me. I can't do that. ... Foul early on. Just stay down. I thought I did a good job of contesting. It didn't go that way. So, I take this loss."
After Afflalo pushed the game to OT, as the AP's Graham wrote, "it was Lawson's turn to step into the spotlight."
"I've become comfortable taking those shots at the end," said Lawson, who finished with 16 points and 13 assists. "I was working on that little pull-up shot during the break."
It's definitely been effective.
Nuggets coach George Karl can attest to that. He told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post that he likes the way Lawson's been letting that jumper go:
As for his huge 3-pointer, Lawson's coach said: "He had a bounce to it, a good rhythm. When he gets squared and bounces he has a good release. He realized that's probably the shot you're going to get at the end of the game more."
And unfortunately for the Spurs and Kings, these days, Lawson's making it.
The excellent Nuggets blog Roundball Mining Company summed up Lawson's performance nicely:
Another near triple-double, another game-winner, another up and down night where Lawson shined brightest with the game on the line and his team in utter despair. And this was the second night of a back to back. No big deal.
Lawson finished with 16 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and just three turnovers in the win. Not a bad way to celebrate being named the Western Conference Player of the Week, huh?
Is the video above not rocking for you? Please feel free to peruse the game-winner elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the National Basketball Association.