Nuggets vs. Thunder: How Ty Lawson Can Shut Russell Westbrook Down for the Win

Morgan Chalfant@@mchalfant16Contributor IIIMarch 19, 2013

Lawson has led his team to a 12-game winning streak.
Lawson has led his team to a 12-game winning streak.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets will meet the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC, and the outcome of the game will undoubtedly depend on the matchup between Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson and Thunder speedy guard Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook is a tough contender, especially with his shooting ability, his speed and his assists. The Oklahoma City guard is averaging about two more assists per game than he did last season.

However, Westbrook’s explosive play is not always consistent. Though he holds a field-goal percentage of .463 in wins, his percentage of .379 is much lower in losses.

Moreover, when aggravated by strong defensive play, Westbrook can make bad decisions. For instance, the point guard heaved up an outrageous half-court shot with 2:29 to go in the third quarter against the Spurs on March 11 because he was feeling too much defensive pressure.

Given the unpredictability of Westbrook’s shot selection and field-goal percentage, Nuggets guard Ty Lawson needs to play Westbrook close and tough defensively in order to aggravate him. This could cause Westbrook to take outrageous shots and wander from his mostly rational shot selection.

Though Westbrook averages 23.4 points per game this season and Lawson only averages 16.8, the Nuggets point guard has demonstrated his ability to be a clutch scorer in crunch time, especially in games against Oklahoma. On March 1, Lawson sealed the Nuggets’ 105-103 win over OKC with a fabulous jumper with merely 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock.

Furthermore, Lawson can score to match Westbrook’s numbers. During Denver’s 111-88 win over Minnesota on March 9, the point guard totaled 32 points in 34 minutes of game play. Lawson also has a consistently strong assist average, like Westbrook, with 7.0 assists per game for the 2012-13 season.

The Thunder are coming off of their eighth win out of nine games, but the Nuggets are highly motivated to extend their winning streak to 13 games in Oklahoma City tonight. If Lawson can play Westbrook tough on defense, shut down his speed and cause him to take wild shots, the Nuggets certainly have a chance at prevailing over the Thunder for the third straight time this season.