|Great job, Darius Morris. (Getty Images)|
The Los Angeles Lakers, their fans, and a few pundits (myself included) have been saying we can't really judge the team until Steve Nash is back in the lineup. Saturday night, Nash returned to the Lakers for his third game with the team and first with Mike D'Antoni coaching them, and the results were all kinds of insanity.
|More on Lakers-Warriors|
The Lakers' 118-115 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors brought even more craziness to a Lakers' season that has already tried on multiple straightjackets. The Warriors blew a 14-point lead, the lead changed seven times in the last four minutes of regulation, and Steve Nash dropped the final nail in the coffin in overtime.
The story for much of the game was the domination by the Warriors' perimeter game. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both scored decently at times (although their final numbers were not good), but Jarrett Jack came off the bench to score 29 points on 13-of-19 shooting with 11 assists. He carved up the Lakers' defense for most of this game, drilling shot after shot for what should have been a backbreaking effort by the Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Golden State controlled the tempo of this game and seemed to be dominating the contest, despite the Lakers staying within striking reach. The key moment/decision in this game was 12 seconds into the fourth quarter when Dwight Howard picked up his fifth personal foul. Howard had only played a little over 12 minutes through the first three quarters of the game, but D'Antoni decided to keep him in the game after picking up his fifth.
The result was the Lakers going on a run with Dwight, Jordan Hill, Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks all making plays. When Steve Nash checked back in, the momentum continued in the Lakers' favor with the Warriors just trying to find ways to reverse the path of their fortunes. But when Kobe checked back into the game, his team had to figure out how to keep their momentum while he was on the floor.
That may sound like an odd problem to have, but Kobe's shooting through the first three quarters of this game was abysmal and consistently hurting the Lakers' offense. He was 10-of-29 for 21 points through the first three periods. When Nash, Kobe, World Peace, Gasol and Howard were all on the floor to try to complete the comeback victory, the Lakers got back to playing some real basketball.
Over the final few minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lakers ran pick-and-roll plays, high-low passing plays, and found open shots on the perimeter with what was starting to resemble an offense run by a point guard that's very good at directing traffic. They couldn't find ways to stop the Warriors, who put up incredible offensive efforts in the final moments of regulation as well. But the Lakers were able to keep pace, which isn't something they've been that good at doing this season.
Even with Kobe's terrible miss at the end of regulation, Los Angeles had new life in them to go out and take the overtime period. Kobe came back in overtime, scoring six of the Lakers' 10 points. But it was a Steve Nash dagger to put the Lakers back up three with 16 seconds left in the game that left the Warriors scrambling in the final seconds of the game.
And that's the difference between having Darius Morris or Chris Duhon on the floor and having Nash out there. Adding one of the best shooters of all time is rarely a bad thing.
While this Lakers team was a lot more fun than previous versions we've seen this season, this was by no means a pretty effort from them. It took 20 points from Metta World Peace, 14 points from Jordan Hill, and 12 points from Jodie Meeks for this game to even remain within striking distance. Nash managed the game well, Howard played well for just one quarter, and Gasol continued to frustrate his supporters. Kobe scored due to volume of shots and not quality of play. In fact, he posted only the second game since 1985 in which a player took 40 or more shots without making a single free throw (Hakeem Olajuwon in 1997 was the other).
The Lakers still won the game though, even despite all that ugliness. They've won four straight games, even if the last two have seemed fluky. They're slowly crawling back up the standings.
None of the defensive issues were fixed Saturday night and the Lakers' stars are still a work in progress when they're trying to play together. But the team still kept pace offensively in Nash's second debut with the Lakers.
Until they can fix the other problems, that will be what they need to accomplish most nights to give themselves a chance at turning this thing around.