Steve Nash expresses optimism he can play Tuesday vs. Utah

A familiar image emerged surrounding Steve Nash, and it didn’t involve the dazzling passes he recaptured recently after staying sidelined for nearly three months.

Instead, the Lakers’ 92-86 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center provided an awfully familiar storyline that never seems to end.

Nash left midway through the third quarter after a collision with Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich sparked nerve irritation in his leg. Nash suffered the same damage last season when he fractured his left leg Oct. 31, 2012 against the Portland, an injury that sidelined him for 24 games. The subsequent nerve issues eventually affected his back and hamstrings, sidelining him for eight games, including two playoff appearances.

Yet, Nash expressed optimism he could still play Tuesday against the Utah Jazz, insistent that the nerve damage in his back that sidelined him for all but eight games this season won’t suddenly emerge.

“It’s a gut feeling. It wasn’t like I broke it again,” said Nash, who finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and two assists in 21 minutes. “J just kind of irritated the nerve. I’m pretty hopeful all the stuff I’ve been doing can overcome the irritation. It’s kind of transient. Hopefully when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll feel better.”

Nash had displayed encouraging signs during his two-game stint last week, including a 19-point effort on 8-of-15 shooting and five assists in the Lakers’ win Friday in Philadelphia.

But Nash showed discomfort after committing a turnover with nine minutes left in the third quarter. He didn’t leave until the 5:18 mark, believing he initially could play through it.

“I wanted to play. Especially when you’re losing, you want to fight through it,” Nash said. “I’ve been through that before and I know where it goes. I didn’t want to risk it and honestly let the guys that were able to carry the load. I think it was the smartest decision to come back and not have a major setback.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni wondered if that should’ve happened sooner.

“He said he wanted to play through it,” D’Antoni said. “In retrospect, it might have been better to just come on out.”

Nash’s setback also contributed to the team’s never-ending injured list that includes Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Pau Gasol (strained right groin), Xavier Henry (bone bruise in right knee), Jodie Meeks (sprained right ankle) and Jordan Farmar (left hamstring). None are expected to return until sometime after next week’s All-Star break.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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