DALLAS — After his encouraging return to action Friday night after a three-week bout with plantar fasciitis, Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson sat at his locker icing his — toes?
“I hadn’t run in a while, so I started using other parts of my foot to compensate for it,” Lawson said of the injury that affected his right heel. “My toes hurt a little bit, but other than that it felt fine.”
That’s encouraging news for Nuggets, who fared remarkably well without their 5-foot-11 leader, but are clearly a more dynamic team when he’s driving the offense. Lawson had missed eight of the last nine games. He logged 19 minutes off the bench in Friday’s 108-105 overtime loss to the Mavericks.
Lawson’s shot certainly showed no rust as he went 5-for-7 from the floor with 13 points. He had three assists, two rebounds and no turnovers. One of his two missed shots was a 42-foot heave at the end of the third quarter. He entered the game late in the first quarter and played about seven minutes of the second quarter.
“I was afraid that if I stepped on my heel or stepped the wrong way, my pain would come back,” Lawson said. “But after I got used to it, the second quarter, the third quarter, I feel confident that I’ll be all right.”
Denver has three games remaining, and they’re big ones. Friday’s loss did them no favors in the race for the No. 3 seed with Memphis, which tied Denver in the standings at 54-25, and the Clippers (53-26) both winning. Still, the Nuggets retained the third seed and control their fate as they hold the tiebreaker over No. both 4 Memphis and No. 5 L.A.
Nuggets coach George Karl said he planned to give Lawson about 20 minutes in his return. Karl took Lawson out at the 7:02 mark of the fourth quarter after he hit two free throws and Denver trailing 86-84. Karl never put him back in during a nip-and-tuck fourth quarter and overtime.
“I actually thought he played better than I thought he was going to play,” Karl said. “I thought he’d be a little more rusty, but he had a solid feel of his game. Dallas did a good job of stopping us from getting in the open court, but I think if we had Ty for 30 minutes we probably win the game.”
Denver plays Sunday at home against Portland. Karl must now decide how quickly to ramp up Lawson’s minutes with the playoffs set to begin next weekend.
“I’m hoping in the next three that he’ll have some moments where he kind of gets his swag back, a little bit of his confidence back,” Karl said. “And then we’ll have those two or three days (after the regular season) to get him ready for the playoffs.”