Lakers believe win over Golden State fostered growth

OAKLAND — The early Christmas present in Steve Nash’s return initially provided a visual reminder that the Lakers still had plenty of things to fulfill on their holiday wish list.

The Lakers still couldn’t defend. They still struggled handling the ball. The Lakers still had an offense featuring too much of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ size advantage in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol became mute because of early foul trouble.

But as they nursed a 13-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter against a young and scrappy Warriors team off to their best start since the 1991-92 season, the Lakers suddenly revealed their character.

The Lakers’ 118-115 overtime victory Saturday over the Warriors at Oracle Arena didn’t just cement a four-game winning streak. It also forged a collective feeling that the experience made them stronger.

“We needed something everyday with something to build on,” Nash said. “You can’t build on anything without hard work and perseverance.”
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Steve Nash believes he can manage pain in left leg

OAKLAND — Sitting by his locker stall, Lakers guard Steve Nash exuded a sense of calmness.

That quality both illustrated the Lakers’ resiliency in their 118-115 overtime win Saturday over the Golden State Warriors. It also reflected how Nash has stayed even keel surrounding his fractured left leg that has since healed.

Nash played for the first time in just over two months, posting 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting and nine assists with few visible signs that his left leg has slowed him down.

“There’s some soreness and some pain, but right now it’s okay. It’s manageable. As long as it’s manageable, I’ll just keep going.”

Nash spoke those words while he planted his feet in a bucket of water, one of several routines the Lakers guard presumably will take to ensure the leg injury that kept him sidelined for 24 games won’t flare up again. The Lakers will also take the day off on Sunday, giving Nash more time to assess how his 38-year-old body responded to playing 41 minutes. This came after only two days of five-on-five contact drills after going through several weeks limited to stationary ball handling and shooting drills.

“I thought it would be a lot worse after so many weeks out and so much inactivity,” Nash said. “There’s no replicating the game of basketball. To play 40 minutes after seven weeks out is more than I can ask for. I actually felt in a decent rhythm right now.”

Still, that doesn’t mean Nash has healed all wounds.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni estimated it will take Nash at least a week to return to peak conditioning. Nash has also predicted he will feel pain in his foot for the next three to four weeks.

“I feel pretty positive,” Nash said. “It didn’t give me too much trouble. There’s some pain and soreness. But I’m getting used to that. I think that’s going to be there for a while as it completely heals.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Lakers show resiliency in 118-115 overtime win over Golden State

OAKLAND – The Lakers received an early Christmas present in the form of a healthy point guard who can seemingly do everything.

Steve Nash can pass. He can shoot. Nash can handle the ball. No assembly required there as Nash returned for the first time in nearly two months after sitting for 24 games nursing a fractured left leg.

More importantly, Nash’s first game coincided with the Lakers’ 118-115 overtime victory Saturday over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Just as Nash has thrived on ensuring team play in a prolific 17-year career, his return featured the Lakers (13-14) winning in extra regulation for their fourth consecutive victory with an assorted cast of characters.

“You can’t build on anything without hard work or perseverance,” said Nash, who posted 12 points on five of eight shooting and nine assists in 42 minutes. “It allowed us to creep back in the end of the game. We’re still trying to figure ourselves out. We need games like this.”
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Steve Nash to play tonight against Golden State

OAKLAND — In what will mark his first game in nearly two months, Lakers guard Steve Nash will play tonight against Golden State, according to a league source.

Nash has missed the past 24 games because of a small fracture in his lower left leg suffered Oct. 31 when he collided with Portland guard Damian Lillard.

The Lakers have classified Nash as a game-time decision and didn’t have morning shootaround today. Nash had also said it was a “low chance” he’d play against the Warriors and instead return Christmas Day when the Lakers host the New York Knicks at Staples Center. But a league source indicated Nash feeling little additional pain after going through five-on-five contact drills for the past two days.

The Lakers (12-14) have expressed optimism that Nash’s familiarity with Mike D’Antoni’s offense and standing among the league’s top point guards will significantly erase the team’s struggles. Chris Duhon and Darius Morris have shared point guard duties with mixed success.

But the Lakers have also conceded in recent weeks that challenges lie ahead in Nash adjusting to his conditioning and how the team still remains disciplined on defense.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni still tinkering with rotation

The only thing that’s stayed consistent regarding Mike D’Antoni’s rotation involves its inconsistency.

Antawn Jamison went from commanding heavy minutes even at Pau Gasol’s expense to someone who might not play entirely. Jordan Hill has come full circle going from “DNP” status to the team’s featured reserve forward all the way back to “DNP” again. Metta World Peace went from starting small forward to reserve power forward. Devin Ebanks went from forgotten man to starting small forward. Chris Duhon and Darius Morris have alternated as the starting point guard.

The only variables that remain the same: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Gasol still have their starting spots. Jodie Meeks has continuously elevated his role because of his dependable three-point shooting, so much that he may start at shooting guard when the Lakers (12-14) visit the Golden State Warriors (18-9) tonight at Oracle Arena. Whether Steve Nash plays tonight or Christmas Day against the Knicks for the first time since nursing a fractured left leg for two months, he will immediately take the starting spot.

“Hopefully I can get to a point where we are satisfied and settled down,” D’Antoni said. “If not, so be it.”

All players would prefer having a set rotation so they can better prepare for their rhythm and role. But D’Antoni’s shuffling addresses his hope in how to fully complement the Lakers’s frontcourt in Howard and Gasol. The Lakers believe Nash’s return will alleviate such concerns.

But D’Antoni’s also looking for a reliable bench, a unit that ranks 29th in the league in points per game (24.8) and 25th in overall efficiency (28.6).

“I hope to have it tomorrow, today,” D’Antoni said. “But I can’t have it until I get satisfied with it. We’re still searching a little bit. Somebody has to jump out and grab it. Then I have to learn the team a little bit.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Steve Nash remains game-time decision against Golden State

OAKLAND — It remains to be seen whether the Lakers will receive an early Christmas present in the form of their star point guard returning.

Steve Nash remains a game-time decision for the the Lakers’ (12-14) game tonight against the Golden State Warriors (18-9) at Oracle Arena. The Lakers did not have morning shootaround today.

Following Friday’s practice, Nash considered it a “low chance” he would play against Golden State after missing the past 24 games because of a fractured left leg. Nash has practiced the past two days in five-on-five contact drills for the first time since fracturing his left fibula Oct. 31 during a collision with Portland guard Damian Lillard.

Nash still out some hope he could play in case his body responded fine to his increased activity. Regardless, Nash said he’s “definitely” playing when the Lakers host the New York Knicks (19-7) on Christmas Day.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Mike D’Antoni clears the air with Pau Gasol

In hopes to provide clarity to the differences they’ve shared since working together, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and Pau Gasol recently met.

The Lakers forward has averaged a career-low 12.4 points on 41.3 percent shooting, and has expressed frustration regarding the facilitating role outlined for him under D’Antoni’s system. Gasol also hasn’t sounded pleased with sitting out in crunch time, something that has happened three times this season.

What did the meeting do?

“Maybe just that he understands that I understand,” D’Antoni said. “I think we both understood how important he is. He has to play well for us to be good.”

Gasol returned in the Lakers’ 101-100 win Tuesday over the Charlotte Bobcats, his first game since sitting in the past eight because of knee tendinitis. Although he posted 10 points on only three of 10 shooting, Gasol contributed with nine points, five assists and a flurry of well-set screens that set up easy baskets for teammates.

Gasol sat out of the final 2:36, which D’Antoni attributed on his fatigue. But with Gasol sitting out late stretches in three games thus far this season, D”Antoni made it clear that won’t happen again.

“He has to,” D’Antoni said when asked if Gasol will play late in the game.

The rest of Gasol’s role remain unclear.

Gasol wants to play more in the post, a staple that secured two NBA championships with the Lakers and two Olympic gold-medal appearances with his native Spain. But D’Antoni has called for Gasol to play more of a “stretch 4,” which would entail playing the high post, facilitate the offense and shoot mid-range jumpers.

D’Antoni has expressed flexibility in making tweaks to his role, but he didn’t reveal to what extent he will after talking with Gasol.

“I just think it’s important he knows how much I like him and always admired him and think he’s the one of the best if not the best big men with the Lakers,”D’Antoni said. “Having said that, the two weeks off helped him and he’s in better shape. His knees are not bothering him as much and he can get back to being Pau Gasol.”

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Dwight Howard nonchalant about Warriors’ possible “Hack a Dwight’ strategy

EL SEGUNDO — Time and time again, opposing teams mock Dwight Howard’s poor free throw shooting.

Some coaches publicly tout the so-called “Hack a Howard” strategy, that employs intentionally fouling him so he goes to the free throw line. Then their players execute it.

But no one sounded bolder about the tactic than Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who suggested on 710 ESPN that the Lakers (12-14) meeting Saturday against the Warriors (16-9) will feature Howard going to the foul line in heavy doses.

“If there’s anybody in this league that does not shoot free throws at a high level, if they’re on the floor, I, as a coach, will every single time entertain fouling,” Jackson said. “That’s just the right move to make as a coach. Whether it’s Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, it doesn’t matter whoever it is. If that opportunity presents itself, I’m going to entertain it and more than likely do it. Now, if you make the shots, it will make me adjust, but I’m going with what the data says in front of me.”

Jackson backed up those words with strong actions last season.

The Warriors employed that tactic to the extreme when Howard played for the Orlando Magic, resulting in a 21-of-39 mark at the stripe. With Howard scoring 43 points, SB Nation’s Tom Ziller explained how that strategy ultimately backfired.

“If they want to foul him, foul him,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s been shooting really well. So I’m pretty confident we’ll be okay.”

That didn’t happen earlier in the season.

The Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic employed the strategy earlier this season with great success, but Howard sounded nonchalant about the continued approach.

“That’s fine. I’ve been working on my free throws,” Howard said. “So if it happens, I’ll be ready. Then we’ll make them pay.”
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Steve Nash said there’s a “low chance” he will play Saturday against Golden State

EL SEGUNDO — After going through two full contact practices for the first time since fracturing his left leg nearly two months ago, Lakers guard Steve Nash reported “lots of pain, but it has progressed.”

But will it be enough for Nash to suit up when the Lakers play Saturday at Golden State?

“There’s probably a low chance tomorrow,” Nash said following practice here at the Lakers’ facility. “But I’m definitely playing on Christmas for sure.”
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Steve Nash looks good in practice, but when will he actually play in a game?

When the doors to the Lakers’ practice facility opened Thursday afternoon and reporters were granted access to the gym, they were treated to the sight of Steve Nash working his magic with the basketball in his hands during the team’s scrimmage.

Nash ran away from Darius Morris’ defensive pressure and darted into the paint before passing to an open Metta World Peace for a jump shot that hit nothing but net. A few moments later, Nash set up Jodie Meeks for a 3-pointer that also was good.

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