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Ty Lawson's elevated game helping Nuggets win in altitude

By Zach Harper | NBA writer
Ty Lawson has been playing out of his mind at home lately. (Getty Images)

On Jan. 18 the Denver Nuggets dropped a home game to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards received a huge effort off the bench from John Wall, who had recently returned from his knee injury, and Bradley Beal had one of his better games as a pro in his rookie season.

Since that hiccup in their season, the Nuggets have been destroying every team that tries to adjust to the altitude in the Mile High City and their asphyxiating style when they're at home. The active hands of their wing defenders, the contest-and-release tactics of defending shots on the perimeter and the stellar play of Ty Lawson during this 13-game home winning streak fuel that style.

Denver's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night was a perfect example of everything the Nuggets have been doing correctly in their current home winning streak and an eight-game winning streak no matter where they're playing over the last two weeks. The Nuggets were relentless in testing the conditioning and lung efficiency of the Wolves in their 23-point victory and they let Lawson lead the way with his incredible play.

Lawson led all scorers in Saturday night's game with 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field and 4 of 4 from 3-point range. It came after a 21-point, 11-assist, and zero turnover effort in a blowout victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Both games are indicative of how Lawson has been playing at home during this 13-game home winning streak. He's shredding opposing defenses and there isn't much they can do about it.

Over the last 13 games at home, the Nuggets point guard is more than justifying the four-year, $48 million contract extension he received this past preseason. Lawson is averaging 20 points, 7.8 assists, 2.4 turnovers, and 2.0 steals during this stretch, with field goal/3-point/free throw percentages of 50/41.7/82.9. The majority of the damage is the direct cause of a jump shot he's effortlessly flicking toward the basket with incredible accuracy.

Ty Lawson's shooting chart over last 13 home games. (NBA.com/Stats)

Looking at his shooting breakdown, he's actually not finishing well at the rim at all, where players are supposed to boost their shooting percentage by a significant amount. Lawson isn't typically a great finisher in the restricted area. On the season, he's made 53 percent of his attempts in the restricted area, which is 3.5 percent below league average.

Where he's made the Nuggets incredibly deadly during the home winning streak is his midrange shooting. In those five midrange zones on the shooting chart, Lawson has been shooting an impressive 40.9 percent from the floor this season. During the winning streak, Lawson has increased his accuracy to 52.9 percent from those five zones. He's actually shooting better on long 2-point jumpers than he is in the restricted area.

Add in his incredible shooting from 3-point range and the way he's taking care of the ball (nearly a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and it's easy to see how much he fuels the home success of the Nuggets.

As the Nuggets peel off wins at home, they're doing so in a dominant fashion. Five of those 13 games have been by single digits; the rest of them are big blowouts that help lead to their plus-14.8 net differential during this streak. And it all starts with the play of their lightning-fast point guard putting the pressure on the defense from all over the floor in the high altitude of the Pepsi Center.

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