It’s a bit of hyperbole to refer to Ty Lawson as the Kings’ closer.
But lately when the Kings win, one constant has been a lot of Lawson in the fourth quarter.
In four of the Kings’ last six victories prior to facing the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday at Golden 1 Center, Lawson had played the entire fourth quarter.
In a fifth game, Lawson played 7:19 of the fourth against Philadelphia on Dec. 26. Lawson missed the Kings’ Jan. 3 win at Denver due to a sinus fracture.
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“I guess most of the games we’ve been down, so we’ve been having a good flow and (coach Dave Joerger will) just leave me in,” Lawson said.
When the Kings have started games slowly, which has happened a lot, Lawson has been part of the bench unit that has injected the energy that’s sparked a comeback.
So on those nights, Joerger will stick with Lawson along with other members of the second unit. But Joerger would tell you that deciding how long to stick with his reserves is not always simple, especially when the reserves are responsible for turning the game around.
“It’s interesting because if you’re down 15, 18, 20 points and a group brings you back, where do you go from finding the right three guys?” Joerger said. “It was suggested that we not sub DeMarcus Cousins back in for the last five minutes of a game last week. That’s just ridiculous. So who’s going to mesh with that, who has got it going and who has the stamina?”
Lawson has shown he has the energy to finish games.
Still, it’s not as if Lawson is guaranteed to play that role.
“I know (Joerger) has a feel for who’s playing better, either DC (Darren Collison) or me and that’s who closes it out,” Lawson said. “Or if we’re both killing, we’ve closed out before together. He just has a feel and lets me know towards the end of the game.”
The Kings are as healthy as they’ve been lately, with no players on the injury report since Rudy Gay returned from a strained right hip flexor last week. That alters what Joerger does with his rotations.
“It’s different from game-to-game, how you start, how you finish and everything in between,” Joerger said. “The matchups that you go through throughout the course of the game, and we’ve gotten in foul trouble the last couple of games also.”
That Lawson has finished so many games has a lot to do with his style of play. After struggling to find his way with the starting unit, Lawson found his groove coming off the bench.
The Kings’ reserves tend to play more freely, relying on a faster pace, and more passing to find offense rather than depending on running the offense through either Cousins, Gay, or Collison.
Earlier in the season, Joerger said ideally either Cousins or Gay would be on the court at all times. Gay’s injury meant that wasn’t possible. But it might have helped the bench fortify its identity.
“It’s just a change of pace,” Lawson said. “I just get in playing faster and we’re getting shots up quicker and more open shots. I just think (Joerger) has a feel for it and just lets me roll with it.”
Joerger is comfortable rolling with Lawson or any player that shows he’s on a roll.
“I played Anthony Tolliver the other night like 17 minutes straight,” Joerger said. “... You have to weigh those things and it’s not always easy. But you get a sense for your team – your team kind of tells you, too – who they’re comfortable with, matchups, guys that are playing well. I’ve never been accused of not playing guys who are playing well at the end of a game if I can.”