SAN ANTONIO –In a season where they have fielded too many injuries to count, it’s only natural that the Lakers would open Game 1 of their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs with a new starting lineup.
Lakers guard Steve Nash will return to point guard after missing the past eight contests because of persisting soreness in his right hamstring. Because of Kobe Bryant’s season-ending torn left Achilles, Steve Blake will slide over from point guard
to shooting guard. At least the Lakers will have their natural positions featuring Dwight Howard (center), Pau Gasol (forward) and Metta World Peace (forward).
Still, Nash and Blake have played alongside each other later in the game well enough for Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni to describe their chemistry as “good.” D’Antoni said he also wanted Blake in the lineup to guard Tony Parker, who would likely give Nash fits considering his defensive deficiencies. The Lakers also welcomes Nash back for obvious reasons considering his unmatched passing and ball handling skills.
“It doesn’t seem like he missed a beat,” D’Antoni said of Nash. “He’s ready to go. We’ll see how it is when it goes live. But it’s time to get back in there. He’s going to be a big part of what we do if we make a push.”
D’Antoni said he won’t place a minute restriction on Nash, other than say they will be “good minutes.” But he conceded he won’t hesitate to pull the plug on Nash if he doesn’t transition back into the lineup as smoothly as the Lakers would like.
“If he’s playing well, we’ll all see it,” D’Antoni said. “Then again, for us to have our best chance, he has to play very well. There’s no use tiptoeing into the water. We’ll jump in and then figure it out from there.”
D’Antoni has concerns beyond how Nash acclimates back into the lineup. He ticked off a variety of areas necessary to beat the Spurs, including limiting Parker and Tim Duncan, slowing the tempo down and limiting San Antonio’s three-point shooting (37.6 percent).
“If we can do that every play as long as we can play,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll have a chance to win the series.”
Oh yeah, it also helps if Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol carry the Lakers’ inside presence.
“He knows he has to bring his A game,” D’Antoni said of Howard. “I would think he’s ready to roll agaisnst anybody.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org