SAN ANTONIO — They're trying to spur the Tar Heel's heel to be ready for the Spurs.
But will Ty Lawson play Wednesday night in San Antonio? The Nuggets guard and former North Carolina star is expected to be a game-time decision with a right heel bruise that has lingered for a week. The Nuggets, clearly, need the guy.
In the past three games, Denver needed a near miracle to beat the Philadelphia 76ers at home, squeaked past the Sacramento Kings at home and were blown out at New Orleans Monday night, 110-86.
"It's still sore," said Lawson, who leads Denver in scoring (16.9) and assists (6.9). "I practiced the other day and it got more sore when we flew to New Orleans, so I'm trying to not go (too hard on it), and keep it ready for the game."
Coach George Karl and his staff are closely monitoring the point guard, and at practice Tuesday in San Antonio, Karl said, "He didn't do much. He tried to run early, and he didn't look very good. So he sat most of the time."
Lawson suggested Tuesday that there are two ways to approach his recovery. One is to stop any activity for a few days to see if his heel heals. The second would be to practice on it each day and make a game-time decision whether he can play.
Lawson has been playing the best basketball of his career, and the Nuggets are in an airtight fight for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
If Lawson doesn't go Wednesday night, Andre Miller will start again for Denver (49-23). Miller has struggled of late playing major minutes. His subpar defense has been exposed at times. Jrue Holiday tallied 15 assists for the 76ers, while no-name Brian Roberts tallied 18 for the Hornets, the same night Miller and other perimeter defenders got torched for 14 3-pointers.
"I thought New Orleans did a great job at exposing some of our weaknesses without Ty in the lineup," Karl said, "and we have to make sure the next team doesn't do that."
The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman posts analysis, notes and more on this blog focusing on the Denver Nuggets.
Corey Brewer was asked what is the top thing the Nuggets must improve upon, and the Denver reserve said: "We've got to play a lot better pick-and-roll defense."
Well, if there was ever a night to do so, it would be against the Spurs. San Antonio made 16 3s in its lone home game against Denver this season, which stands as the second-most 3s made against the Nuggets this season.
Denver's loss to New Orleans stopped a club-record 15-game winning streak. Now that the Nuggets have lost, there is some philosophical fear, certainly among fans, that Denver will go into a tailspin.
"It's not just a philosophy, it's probably a history," Karl said after Tuesday's practice. "The Clippers went through it, the Spurs last year. There's a letdown, an emotional letdown. Losing last night was a harder loss than it probably was, because you haven't felt losing for a period of time, and all of a sudden, you play poorly in a couple of areas (and think), 'Wow, can we drop that quickly?'
"The panic comes in. But the truth of the matter is we're probably fine and just trying to find our personality without Ty."
C-Brew update. Brewer, who has averaged 11.8 points per game in the best season of his career, is an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
"You never know, but I like it here," he said of his future. "Hopefully they want to keep me."
The last time he was a free agent, he signed with the Dallas Mavericks, won a ring and then was dealt to Denver. But he almost signed with the Spurs.
"It came down to San Antonio, Dallas or Boston — those were my three choices. I almost came (to San Antonio), I'm not going to lie," he said. "One more day and I would have come here. Dallas gave me a three-year deal."