Nash Back in Action

The Lakers came from 14 points down early in the fourth quarter to ultimately defeat a now 18-10 Golden State team 118-115 in overtime on Saturday night. In related news, Steve Nash returned to the court after missing seven weeks due to a non-displaced fracture in his left leg.

Nash finished with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting, making both of his three-point attempts, totaled nine assists and coming up with several key plays late, including a game-cliching step-back jumper to put the Lakers up three with 16 seconds left in overtime.

“I’m trying to set up my teammates, but if I got to a point where I couldn’t find someone, I knew I could get my shot off,” said Nash. “I’m just proud because everyone hung in there when we could have folded and we got a good, tough road win against a team that’s hot.”

His numbers didn’t nearly cover his contribution; if we include the hockey assist, he’d have had closer to 15 dimes.

“He’s a great point guard,” said Pau Gasol. “We all know who he is and what he does. We’re all excited and eager to continue to have him out there. He’s just going to make things better for all of us, give us great rhythm and poise out there. He’s a great decision maker. Anytime you have a guy like that on the floor, you’re in great shape.”

Down the stretch in particular, that decision making was key in Oakland, as Nash repeatedly got the Lakers open shots out of the high screen/roll sets he ran to perfection for Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix. Kobe Bryant had some terrific looks on the weak side of the floor when the defense had to sink in to prevent buckets at the rim from Dwight Howard or a duck in from Gasol.

“He orchestrated things,” said Bryant of Nash. “He got us in some sets and in actions and that’s exactly what a great point guard is supposed to do. He lined us up and saw things that were executing well for us and he went to them. You saw being a lot more organized tonight.”

“I think that we’re a completely different team with him out there,” added D’Antoni. “He’s done that his whole career so it’s not really that much of a surprise. He’ll even get better and he’ll get used to the guys … the guy is a winner, that’s about all you can say.”

There’s no question that the Lakers had a different, more positive vibe about them in the locker room after the game, and it centered upon the kind of energy Nash creates.

“For me, it’s about our spirit,” Nash summarized. “We have to have a smile on our face, by physical, enjoy the battle, move the ball, maybe play more with our mouths and our talking than our quickness. We can accomplish a lot; we just have to get that chemistry, that good feeling, that belief in ourselves and we’ll win some games.”

That’s music to D’Antoni’s ears, having someone on the court that’s focused on uniting a talented roster that’s been in search of direction, and one that knows his system better than any player in the world.

It’s also what had Bryant yelling “Nasty Nash!” in a joyful post game locker room.

Want more Nash? Below is a transcription of his media session at Monday’s practice:

Q: Opening comments at practice:
Nash: The big thing for us is we need to win games. I’m just anxious to play and get wins. We’ve won four in a row and if we can keep this going, we can put ourselves back in contention. We should be a desperate team right now.

Q: On if he sees anything different in his teammates now that he’s back:
Nash: I don’t know about that. For me, it’s great to be back playing with these guys. I’m happy I can contribute. We’re just trying to build this team and build some spirit. We’ve had a lot of time this year where we’ve been in transition and it’s caught us thinking, it’s caught us maybe not believing, or not knowing where we’re supposed to be going. That’s sort of a paralysis we’ve seen so hopefully we can kind of get through that.

Q: On if he senses desperation from the team:
Nash: Yeah, I think we realize the position we’re in. We can’t drop games. We have to go out there and try to win every single game, and go for wins instead of trying to adjust and figure out what we’re doing. We have to win games and figure out after what transitions need to be made still.

Q: On running the pick and roll with certain guys and how long it takes to develop a chemistry where you know where your teammates will be:
Nash: It depends. It comes in a certain amount of time with each different guy, but I think this is a totally different scenario because we have a number of different players adjusting to a new coach, a new system and to one another. We’re still trying to figure out now only the relationship with one another in the pick and roll, but five guys in the pick and roll because that’s what we really try to accomplish – getting five guys involved. And details – I think that’s something that’s continuing to come but we still have some improvement left to do.

Q: On the team’s ball movement at GSW (33 assists):
Nash: I think we created advantages in the pick and roll that left odd numbers on the weak side. If we can get a team scrambling on defense, then the ball can move, find the open guy, we make shots and we get assisted baskets.

Q: On what he does for Jordan Hill’s game:
Nash: Jordan (Hill) is a big part of our team. He gives us depth in the frontcourt, but he plays with such tremendous energy and he’s a great rebounder. He’s as good a big man shooter on our team as well. He’s proven that since training camp. He makes shots, he rebounds, he runs the floor, he’s physical and he adds a lot to our team.

Q: On if the team’s desperation leads to more pressure:
Nash: It depends. Everyone deals with things differently. Some people embrace that, some people feel pressure and react the other way. I think for our team, we have to embrace it, enjoy it, realize we’re going to be under a microscope and it’s going to be fun. We have to embrace that challenge, come out every night and play as best as we can and get as many wins as we can and enjoy them afterward.

Q: On what it means to him when he sees certain plays work (i.e. the alley oop to Kobe at GSW):
Nash: I just want to play and help us score points. At this stage in my career, I just want to see the ball go in the basket for our teammates as efficiently as possible.

Q: On how his leg feels:
Nash: Not bad. A little soreness, but fortunate we have two days here, especially with a (noon) time game, so hopefully I feel good tomorrow.

Q: On if he has a counter in his head about how many shots teammates get up and how he distributes the ball:
Nash: To an extent, for sure. Sometimes if a guy hasn’t been involved or maybe how a guy is feeling – if you see his energy and his sense of inclusion waning, then you want them to get pumped up and feeling good. But I think the key is for everybody to accept their roles, be aggressive and make the right basketball play, and not be prejudiced toward different situations. It’s a thing we’re still striving for.

Q: On his thoughts regarding Pau Gasol playing at the high post:
Nash: That’s something that should be a huge part of our team. His size, his ability to pass and shoot should be deadly at the elbows. Hopefully we can find a rhythm and timing together where we can exploit that position where he’s catching the ball with people trying to recover to him.

Q: On if he was surprised where his conditioning was after logging 41 minutes at GSW:
Nash: A little bit. I think I’m not in great shape, but I was able to get through it and I had enough energy at the end of the game to finish. I definitely didn’t expect after seven weeks to play that much, but we got the win, we got through it and I felt fortunate to feel as good as I did at the end.