Lakers Prep For Mavericks

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento KingsLakers starting point guard Steve Nash did not practice Monday in advance of Tuesday’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Game-time decision, I guess. Doubtful probably. He’s not completely out of the woods, but we’ll be a little cautious with it.”

After playing two minutes at Sacramento, Steve Nash exited the game because of a strained right hamstring. Postgame, the 16-year veteran told Time Warner Cable Sportsnet: “I hope I don’t miss any (games). There’s a chance I could miss the next one but I don’t think it’s anything worse than that.”

Nash also missed most of the second half at Milwaukee, playing just seven third-quarter minutes before being pulled for the rest of the contest.

“It actually happened at Golden State and my hamstrings really tightened up, and then in Minnesota I was compensating for the hamstrings and got my hip (tightening up),” Nash told reporters.

Should Nash not be able to go, Steve Blake, who scored 15 points in L.A.’s 103-98 win over the Kings, would likely start in his place. With Nash out, Kobe Bryant returned to more of a facilitating role, dishing out 14 assists – one shy of his career high set against Washington in Feb. 2002. Earlier in the season, Bryant recorded back-to-back games of 14 dimes.

Pau Gasol, in his fifth game back since returning from a tear in his plantar fascia, also had a season-high 10 assists. In the last three games, the 7-foot Spaniard is averaging 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists in nearly 34 minutes.

“We put him at the elbow for five straight minutes and he just tore them up – just tore them up,” Bryant said of Gasol’s play postgame.

After Monday’s practice, Gasol acknowledged he, along with Bryant, made it a point of emphasis to get others involved on the offensive end.

“Once Steve went down, Kobe and myself started trying to make plays for others a little more,” he said. “The ball was going through our hands a lot more and we made great passes and didn’t turn the ball over, which is something we need to keep up. It was good game as far as moving the ball, finding the open guy and making easy plays for others.”

Gasol allowed he would like to see that type of ball movement more, starting tomorrow against Dallas. The Mavericks, winners of 11 of 16 in March, have climbed back in the playoff hunt and trail Utah and L.A. by 1.5 games for the No. 8 seed in large part because of the play of Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7.6 boards on 55 percent field goals in March).

“Dirk is one of the best ever,” D’Antoni explained. “He creates a lot of problems, and they’re playing well. They’re desperate like we are, so it should be a dogfight. Nowitzki will be in there somewhere and we got to be able to contain him a little bit.”

The significance of the game with the Mavericks isn’t any more important despite what the standings look like, according to the coaching staff.

“I don’t know how this is more important than (the others),” D’Antoni said. “We have to win them all, and it starts tomorrow.”