Ty Lawson can be a difference-maker for the Denver Nuggets.
When the Nuggets' point guard gets into the open court, the Lakers' older legs can't match his speed. He weaves his way past height and depth with great ease, leaving a trail of yellow and purple in his wake.
"You're not going to stop Ty Lawson," said Lakers Coach Mike Brown. "You just hope you make him work for his shots."
Lawson's speed helped alter what appeared to be a Lakers blowout Tuesday evening in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
In the third quarter, Lawson slashed some of the Nuggets' 19-point deficit with 11 points on five-for-six shooting as he pushed the ball up court before the Lakers' defense could get set.
He finished with a team-high 25 points and seven assists in Denver's 104-100 loss.
"You got to control Ty Lawson," said former Laker and current NBA radio analyst Mychal Thompson. "He's the guy who brought Denver back. He started getting some open areas to operate, some drives to the basket. You got to take away those spaces for Ty Lawson."
The Lakers did that successfully in Game 1 by fiercely contesting his shots.
"Last game, I missed a couple of shots early," said Lawson, who finished with seven points in his team's 103-88 loss Sunday. "I started to defer and pass the ball. This game, coach was like, 'Just come out aggressive and try to make things happen. I want you to touch the paint at least 10 times in the first quarter.' That's what I did and it worked out for me."
Games 3 and 4 of the series will be played in Denver, where Lawson's strengths will be further highlighted because of the altitude and the electricity of his home court.
The Lakers gave away 30 points on fast breaks in Game 2, and the Nuggets will try to expose the Lakers' defensive weaknesses by running them into the ground on Friday.
"That's definitely a huge key," Lawson said.