Nuggets-Suns Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 10, 2013
With Ty Lawson leading the way, the Denver Nuggets are on the verge of matching their longest win streak of the season. The Nuggets will seek a ninth consecutive victory Monday night while trying to avenge a road loss to the Phoenix Suns from earlier this season. Already playing at a high level over the past month, Lawson tied his best scoring performance of the season in a 111-88 rout of Minnesota on Saturday. His 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including a 4-for-4 effort from 3-point range, boosted his scoring average to 24.2 over the last 13 games. Lawson has shot 53.5 percent in that stretch, also averaging 7.7 assists and making 24 of 58 (41.4 percent) from beyond the arc. "I think he has a lot of confidence, especially on his outside shots," teammate Danilo Gallinari said. "When he has that kind of confidence, I think it's tough to play defense against him because he's quick too and he can find the outlet. He's been playing great for us." With Lawson's help, Denver (42-22) has topped 100 points in 22 of its last 23 games and scored at least 104 in each of the past nine contests. The Nuggets are averaging 111.3 points on 52.7 percent shooting during their win streak, bolstered by 24.5 fast-break points per game. "We've all been playing better in the second half of the season and our record is showing that," Lawson said. "The first half of the season, there were worries in management, coaching staff if we were going to make the playoffs, but we've gotten into shape and we've been playing well." The team's 18-4 surge, which began with a nine-game win streak from Jan. 20-Feb. 9, has put Denver within striking distance of one of the top four spots in the Western Conference. "We've been looking to play this way since the beginning of the season, and we've been working on it, but I think we still have a lot of room to improve," Gallinari said. The Nuggets are seeking their fourth straight road win after starting 11-19 away from home. A visit to Phoenix (22-41) may help, but Denver lost 110-100 there Nov. 12 in its only previous matchup with the Suns this season. That defeat snapped the Nuggets' six-game win streak in the series. Phoenix's Goran Dragic had 21 points to lead seven Suns players in double figures in that win, going 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Dragic scored 18 on Saturday in a 107-105 victory over Houston as Jared Dudley had a team-best 22 points and seven assists off the bench. The Suns have won three of four at home after losing eight of their previous 10 in Phoenix. "I think that trying to create winning culture is the focus now," swingman P.J. Tucker said. "As we get close to the end of the season where we are probably not going to make the playoffs, now we try to win as many games as we can and keep progressing as a team and as an organization." Lawson is averaging 20.3 points on 62.2 percent shooting along with 9.7 assists in his last three games in Phoenix, but he was limited to 12 points and eight assists in the November loss there.
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