Nuggets-Jazz Preview

The Associated Press

For a coach who has lost the key component of his offense so close to the postseason, George Karl doesn't seem very worried.

With capable backups at the ready at point guard, the Nuggets try to adjust without Ty Lawson on Wednesday night when they play a surging Utah Jazz team fighting to make the playoffs.

Lawson missed three games earlier this month with a strained heel before struggling through 20 minutes in Denver's 100-99 loss to San Antonio on Thursday. A further exam revealed a plantar fascia tear, sidelining the team leader with 16.7 points and 6.9 assists per game indefinitely with eight games remaining.

"Ty's job and our job is to figure out how to get him feeling 100 percent,'' Karl said. ''I'm optimistic it will work its way out.

''You rest it and rest it. Once the soreness goes away and once it stretches out and the body figures out how to work it, he probably could be pain free. It could come in a couple of weeks.''

Catching Oklahoma City, which the Nuggets (50-24) trail by four games for the Southwest Division title, may be too tall an order without Lawson. Holding off the Los Angeles Clippers for third in the Western Conference may be a bigger priority.

Guards Andre Miller and Evan Fournier will try to direct Denver's offense in Lawson's absence, and Karl is confident there will be little falloff for a team averaging 105.6 points.

"Ty is speed, an ability to push the ball. Andre has cleverness and cuteness," said Karl of the 37-year-old Miller, who averages 9.5 points and 5.9 assists. "But Andre likes to play the way we play.''

Fournier, a 20-year-old rookie, is an unknown quantity. He had a season-high 19 points in a 109-87 win over Brooklyn on Friday but is averaging 3.7 points in 30 games.

''I think part of my job a little bit is try to put a team that kind of accentuates Evan's talents to play well,'' Karl said. "The one thing I love about (Fournier) is he's a confident guy."

Miller and Fournier will be put to the test against a Jazz team that has found its offensive groove, averaging 108.6 points and 52.0 percent shooting during a season-high five-game winning streak. Utah has also displayed a strong outside game during the run, making 41.4 percent (36 of 87) of its 3-point shots.

The Jazz (39-36) are in a battle with the Lakers and Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West and coming off a 112-102 win over Portland on Monday. Al Jefferson scored 24 points and Mo Williams went 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, adding 20 points as six Utah players finished in double figures.

''You can tell that Mo is getting back in his groove, playing the way he wants to play,'' Jefferson said of Williams, averaging 17.0 points, 6.6 assists and 51.7 percent shooting. "He's scoring, getting people involved and playing good defense and everybody is jumping on his bandwagon. It starts with him.''

Williams missed the last two games against the Nuggets due to foot and thumb injuries and was a non-factor in a 104-84 loss at Denver on Nov. 9. The Nuggets have won both home games in the season series sandwiched around a 105-103 road loss Nov. 26.

Jefferson may be happy to be playing the Nuggets at home as opposed to in Denver. He scored 28 points and made 10 of 15 in the November win but totaled 16 while going 5 for 22 in the two defeats at the Pepsi Center.

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