Nuggets-76ers Preview

What once looked like an intriguing matchup featuring two of the

game’s most promising young point guards might not include either

one of them.

Ty Lawson and Michael Carter-Williams could both be sidelined as

the Denver Nuggets visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday

night.

Lawson left late in the third quarter of Denver’s 106-98 loss at

Boston on Friday with a left hamstring injury. It’s not clear if

the ailment will sideline him Saturday, which would be his first

missed game this season.

Lawson’s career-best 19.3 points per game not only leads the

Nuggets (11-8), but it is one of the best marks among the league’s

point guards. He’s also averaging a personal-best 8.2 assists and

his 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is the highest he’s posted in five

NBA seasons.

Denver was 8-1 without him in 2012-13, though helping to

neutralize his absence was the currently-injured Danilo Gallinari

as well as Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer, who now play for Golden

State and Minnesota, respectively.

The 76ers (7-13) also couldn’t overcome being without

Carter-Williams on Friday, losing 105-88 in Charlotte while the

rookie from Syracuse was sidelined by a sore right knee. He had

played in the club’s last seven games after missing four in a row

in mid-November due to a bruised left foot. His status against the

Nuggets is unclear.

Philadelphia is just 1-4 without Carter-Williams, whose 7.3

assists per game lead the team while his average of 17.7 points

trails only Evan Turner.

Denver’s season-long six game trip – Saturday marks the fifth

stop – could easily end in a sour fashion without Lawson,

particularly if Brian Shaw’s club can’t improve its first-quarter

defense.

The Nuggets fell behind 14-0 against the Celtics, leading to a

39-15 deficit after 12 minutes. It marked the fourth straight game

in which they’ve been outscored in the first quarter and the third

time in that span that they’ve allowed at least 31 points in the

first frame.

“Second consecutive game in a row that we basically got beat up,

got hit first,” Shaw said. “We told our team before the game

started tonight that regardless of their record, they’re going to

come out and fight to stay in first place. And they did that.”

Philadelphia would also like to shore up its defense in the

early portion of games. They’re allowing an NBA-worst 56.8

first-half points per contest.

The Bobcats scored 62 in the first 24 minutes Friday while

shooting 54.3 percent from the floor while handing the Sixers their

ninth loss in 11 games.

“We’ve got to start the game off better defensively,” said Tony

Wroten, who scored 21 points with nine assists and eight rebounds

while starting at point guard. “We played better on defense in the

second half, but we’ve just got to play defense like that for the

whole 48 minutes.”

Wroten is averaging 19.8 points and 6.2 assists over five starts

in place of Carter-Williams, though he’s just 2 of 18 from 3-point

range in those games (11.1 percent). Carter-Williams is shooting

32.4 percent from long range.

Turner was limited to 17 points while committing nine turnovers

as the teams split two meetings last season.

Spencer Hawes averaged 16.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.5

blocked shots while shooting 63.6 percent.