Nuggets guard Ty Lawson is playing some of the best basketball of his life.
They might not have a LeBron James or a Chris Paul, but the Denver Nuggets have proven themselves worthy recently. They were riding an impressive 15-game winning streak before losing Monday night to the New Orleans Hornets, the Nuggets were without their point guard Ty Lawson.
The Nuggets incredible success has surprised and impressed many and as the current No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, Denver surely looks intimidating right now.
Let’s pinpoint why the Nuggets could be serious contenders for winning the championship.
The Nuggets defeated the Thunder most recently on March 19.
Pretty much any team that can beat the Thunder could have legitimate playoff hopes.
On March 19, the Nuggets sailed to their third win of the season over the Thunder 114-104.
Despite being matched up with star guard Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson led the Nuggets in scoring with 25 points.
As a result, the Nuggets are the first team to beat the Thunder three times this season. There’s no doubt that this Denver team has talent if it can take down Durant and the Thunder.
Denver doesn't have a problem taking shots.
Currently, the Denver Nuggets lead the NBA in attempted shots.
Denver has outscored opponents in the paint 52 games in a row. Moreover, they are ranked fifth in the league in free-throw rate.
These statistics all add up to the fact that the Nuggets shoot when they need to...and then some.
A team can be as strong defensively as any and still fail to win a game if its members don’t make enough shots. For the Nuggets, shooting and scoring isn’t a problem.
An offense that creates shooting opportunities is a necessary quality of a championship-contending team, Denver does this better than almost anyone.
Speed is key to the Nuggets' offense.
Per ESPN.com, Coach George Karl said of his Denver team,
“Everybody plays the same amount of games, and resting is not going to get us ready for the opportunities.” He continued, “If we had a bunch of 30-year-olds, I might have a different opinion but we have a bunch of 25-year-olds.”
Karl is right when he emphasizes the youth of his team.
The Nuggets are a young team overall and don’t have to worry about superstars that are in their mid-thirties and injury prone, they avoid issues that have caused players on the Lakers and Spurs to need considerable resting time.
And, with age comes speed.
The Nuggets definitely use fast breaks to their advantage. Rob Mahoney of SI.com said of Denver’s fast break attempts,
“Every player at Karl’s disposal can either handle a drive or finish inside, providing a solid skill foundation for a furious fast-breaking team that brings a similar aim and frantic approach to its half-court sets.”
Iguodala has been pretty dependable in crunch time.
Denver may not have one go-to scorer that immediately gets the ball when a clutch shot is needed, but they certainly have a few players who can be depended on in crunch time.
Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller all can get it done with the game on the line.
The team is also extremely effective when the clock starts winding down towards zero. In the final five minutes of games where the scoring margin is five or less points, the Nuggets rank an impressive fifth in points per possession. The Nuggets also have an advantage in crunch time with their fast-paced, point-generating offense.
Zach Lowe on GrantLand.com even asserts, “Denver has been among the league’s two or three best crunch-time offenses all season, regardless of how you define ‘crunch time."
Crunch time is when games are won or lost, and the Nuggets definitely have an advantage here.
Coach George Karl wants to see improvement in his players before the playoffs.
Coach George Karl is not letting players coast to the end of the regular season.
According to ESPN.com, Karl recently said of his team,
“What I’ve been telling the team, telling them for three days, the next  games I don’t want to hear about rest. I don’t want to hear we’re tired. I want our attitude to be the best basketball we’ve played all year.” Karl added, “And if you don’t want to do that, then I’ll play somebody else.”
He isn't getting cocky, and he’s not letting the wins go to their heads either. He will continue to push them and try to improve them.
As reported Zach Lowe on GrantLand.com, Karl detailed his effort to improve his team,
“There’s no question we’re trying to get more clever in our five-on-five game,” he said. “It’s very difficult to play the way we do and execute in [the half court]. We have some pick-and-roll stuff that we execute fine, but we’ve needed to add some motion stuff and some movement to kind of be more clever.”
Karl’s determination to stay tough on his players and push them to improve will certainly motivate the Nuggets to continue winning and developing all the way to the playoffs.