HANG TIME, Texas — So now the question becomes just how far the Nuggets can drive their Playoff Express without the spark plug?
A short time before Denver rang up its 50th win for the fifth consecutive full NBA season, the best little Western Conference team without a superstar got the bad news that the nagging injury to point guard Ty Lawson is a torn plantar fascia.
Just when it was looking like the Nuggets could make more noise than a firecracker in the silverware drawer of the playoffs comes the bad news.
Originally diagnosed more than a week ago as a heel strain/contusion that would have him back in the lineup shortly, Lawson’s status for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs is now a huge question.
Surgery isn’t needed. The docs in Denver are saying rest and ice. But a torn plantar fascia is the injury that kept the Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the sidelines for just over six weeks.
That puts coach George Karl in a spot without his leader in minutes (34.8), points (16.7) and assists (6.9) per game as the Nuggets try to stay ahead of the Clippers and Memphis for the No. 3 slot in the West playoffs.
According to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, there is no timetable for Lawson’s return and Karl appears almost eager to assume the challenge of piecing all of this together, game by game, until his backcourt star returns.
“So many things come into my thought process,” Karl said. “I told my coaches, last night it was Iguodala, (Friday morning) it was (Evan) Fornier. The guy that I think probably is playing as well as any of those guys is Anthony Randolph. I could play really big for a period of time, playing Anthony at the four with Wilson (Chandler) at the three and A.I. and Corey (Brewer) in the backcourt. That doesn’t give you a really great playmaking team, but you’re athletic, you can run, you can do some things defensively.
“To me it’s flow and pace. It has nothing to do about are we capable of playing basketball. We’re going to be capable of playing basketball. I just don’t know how much rhythm and flow, and the pace.”
On Friday night, the Nuggets got 17 points out of the rookie Fournier in Lawson’s place in thumping the Nets, while Karl also used Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari at the point.
While there’s no doubt that Karl can keep juggling his lineup and the Nuggets can play effectively enough at home, where they’ve won 18 straight, to finish up the regular season, there’s no doubt they need Lawson’s raw speed and slashing ability if they’re going to the wild card that makes noise in the playoffs.
The Playoff Express needs its driver.