In what was supposed to be the most entertaining series of the first round, the Denver Nuggets came into Monday night's game eye to eye with elimination. In a 3-0 hole, the Nuggets scrapped their way to a nail-biting win over the favored Thunder.
Despite big games from both Durant and Westbrook, the Nuggets got solid contributions from multiple players. The most explosive offering came from second-year point guard Ty Lawson. The speedy, young point controlled the tempo of the game, turning out a nearly flawless performance. He would lead the Nuggets with 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
He proved to be the difference, as Oklahoma City had no answer for his penetration. He relentlessly attacked whoever took on the task of defending him. Lawson showed how dangerous the team could be when it attacks throughout the game.
The Nuggets had many questions in the wake of the Carmelo Anthony trade; one of which was how ready Lawson was to lead a team. In the last quarter of the regular season, he'd let his game do the talking. Not only was he ready, but he was longing to take on the challenge.
He and the players acquired in the trade have made quite an impression on the franchise and have the Denver faithful excited about the future of the team. Forward Danilo Gallinari chipped in with 18 points to finish off the Thunder, who were unable to execute down the stretch. The series now shifts back to Oklahoma City on Wednesday where the Thunder hope to book a date for the second round.
Will Ty Lawson become one of the NBA's elite point guards?
In the meantime, coach George Karl and company are happy to have stolen a game and possibly some momentum in this series. Aside from his big-scoring game, Lawson seems to have re-energized a team that had pretty high expectations coming into the postseason. A win in Oklahoma City would certainly make things interesting for Denver, but it is quite a tall task.
Beating the Thunder on their home court is no cakewalk. Whatever the result of the series, the Nuggets have to like the team they've put together. A full season with all of its new additions should lead to another winning season.
That success will likely start with the floor general, Ty Lawson. He gives defenses fits with his quickness and court vision. One thing is certain: If he continues to play the way he played Monday night, the Thunder are in for a long series.