The only place in the NBA where point guard Ty Lawson is more beloved than Russell Westbrook is Denver. In a nutshell, that represents the daunting challenge for the Nuggets to be taken seriously in the league.

If Lawson can't blow by Westbrook, Denver will never catch Oklahoma City's elite status in the Western Conference.

"When a great point guard comes up, you've got to respond to the challenge," Lawson said.

Oklahoma City blew out the Nuggets 105-93 on Tuesday night. The problem: 17 points and 13 assists by Lawson were not enough. At 5-foot-11, Lawson is the biggest talent on the Denver roster.

"He's not one of those sexy names like Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry. He just started to become one of those guys you depend on as a point guard," Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, who believes Lawson doesn't receive the credit his talent merits. "He was probably behind Chauncey (Billups) his first few years, and he's eased his way into the starting lineup, and now he's turned into a star."

Lawson might not have the name of Westbrook.

But, on any given night in the NBA, Lawson has the game to match Westbrook, who finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for the Thunder.

Is playing Westbrook on even terms an unreasonable expectation for Lawson?

It might be. But here's the deal: The West will be won by an elite point guard. While Durant is the best player in the conference, the strength of the NBA leans hard to the Left Coast because of the talent at the position played by Lawson.

Lawson is cut from all-star cloth.

But name all the point guards in the West that Lawson must beat out for all-star glory, and you have a very clear picture of how hard it will be for the Nuggets to become a serious contender for a berth in the NBA Finals.