Found April 01, 2013 on Fox Sports Florida:
DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets recently had a 15-game winning streak. But nobody paid too much attention since the Miami Heat were in the midst of a 27-game spurt.It would figure. For a team with the NBAs fourth-best record, the Nuggets sure do fly under the radar.But leave it to point guard Ty Lawson to let it be known how good they are.Lawson vows the Nuggets (50-24) can get to the NBA Finals and win. Never mind if their Finals foe could be the mighty Heat.I think so, Lawson said when asked if the Nuggets could beat the Heat for the title. They beat us twice early in the year when we werent really in sync. We were still trying to find ourselves. So I feel like if we play them now it would be a better game and we could actually beat them.Denver did give the Heat two good games in November, losing 119-116 at Miami and 98-93 at home. So what makes Lawson think the Nuggets could turn the tide if the teams met in the Finals?Teamwork, and we could throw a lot of people at LeBron (James) and (Dwyane Wade), and not just one person, Lawson said. We can throw (Andre) Iguodala and (Danilo Gallinari) and Corey Brewer and Wilson (Chandler). You can throw so many people at (them). And then we have so many weapons.Lawson is getting ahead of himself considering many would deem it a successful season if the Nuggets simply win one playoff series. They made the postseason the past nine years, but only made it past the first round once.But Lawson is at least right about the Nuggets teamwork and all the weapons they have. Denver is the deepest team in the NBA with nine players averaging 8.3 or more points, including six between 11.7 and 16.7.Lawson, who averages team highs of 16.7 points and 6.9 assists, is the engine that makes it go, although he has missed four of the past five games due to a torn right plantar fascia. Lawson is hopeful of being at least close to full strength for the playoffs and Nuggets coach George Karl said most people are fairly optimistic hell be fine.If that is indeed the case, the Nuggets are the Western Conference team nobody wants to see in the first round. Since an 11-12 start that featured 17 of those first 23 games on the road, the Nuggets have gone 39-12. Theyve won their last 18 games at the Pepsi Center, raising their home record to an NBA-best 33-3.Nevertheless, the Nuggets dont get much publicity. One reason is because they dont have a superstar. The only player on the team ever to have been to an All-Star Game is Iguodala, a forward who made his initial appearance last season with Philadelphia.Its just the nature of the game sometimes, being in a small market, Iguodala, Denvers all-everything guy who averages 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists, said of Denver flying under the radar. That can help you sometimes. It keeps you hungry Im focused on the playoffs and trying to contend for a championship Were capable of beating anybody.Even the defending champion Heat?Unlike Lawson, Iguodala wasnt about to go there. But the Nuggets this season are 3-1 against last seasons other finalist, the Oklahoma City Thunder.Nevertheless, the Nuggets often toil in relative obscurity. But Karl doesnt mind.I definitely like it, said Karl, 61. Ill be honest with you, Im getting too old to talk with (the media) all the time. More under the radar, I think. In the same sense, it seems like we get criticized sometimes for being a good team. It just drives me crazy a little bit Whatever you want to pick (that the Nuggets face criticism for). Were not a top-10 defensive team. Were too young. Whatever you want to say. We dont have a closer.Karl believes the Nuggets have multiple guys who can make big shots at the end. Among them are their version of the Big Three in Lawson, Iguodala and Gallinari, a forward who averages 15.2 points.Other key Denver players are veteran point guard Andre Miller, swingmen Chandler and Brewer and big men Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. All average at least 8.3 points.Karl, though, has heard the criticism about how the Nuggets cant win in the playoffs without a superstar. They havent had one since Carmelo Anthony was traded to New York in February 2011.The only thing we can do is be successful in the playoffs and then everything will stop, the commentaries will go away, Karl said.When it comes to the regular season, Karl keeps on winning. Hes now won 50 or more games in five straight full Denver seasons, the 66-game lockout season of 2011-12 excluded.Karl is the sixth-winningest coach in NBA history with 1,124 wins and is closing in on fifth-place Phil Jackson, who totaled 1,155. But Karl, like his players, often doesnt get a national spotlight while toiling in out-of-the-way Denver.I dont think he gets enough credit for the numbers he puts up year in and year out and the way he adapts (to different personnel), Brooklyn Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said of Karl. I think (the Nuggets are) very good. Theyre one of the elite teams in the league.The only NBA teams with better records are the Heat (58-15) of the East and San Antonio (55-18) and Oklahoma City (54-20) of the West. But the Nuggets rarely get mentioned in the same breath as the latter two even though their 17-3 record since the All-Star break is better than the Thunders 15-6 and Spurs 13-6.I like being under the radar, Lawson said. I like being the underdog. Its been like that since I got here (in 2009).But if the Nuggets end up playing Miami in the Finals, Lawson wouldnt think of them as an underdog.Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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