The Los Angeles Lakers are on a roll heading into their longest road trip of the season, and one of their players should have a little extra motivation to perform well in the opener of that seven-game trek.
In his return to Phoenix, Steve Nash will try to lead the Lakers to a fourth consecutive win while preventing an eighth straight road loss Wednesday night against the Suns.
Nash missed his first chance this season to face the team that drafted him 15th overall in 1996 and brought him back for a second stint with the club spanning eight seasons from 2004-12.
The point guard, who helped the Suns reach the Western Conference finals three times and was named league MVP in 2005 and 2006, was recovering from a small fracture in his left leg during the Lakers' 114-102 home win Nov. 16.
This is his first visit to Phoenix since a sign-and-trade deal - at his request - sent the 38-year-old Nash to Los Angeles for four draft picks over the summer.
"(The Suns) were very apprehensive and didn't want to do it," Nash said at the time. "Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better."
He should at least get a warm reception from his former teammates. Jared Dudley tweeted in July that Nash "has not only been the best but the most unselfish player I ever played with. I only wish him the best. He deserves everything."
Things haven't gone quite as Nash expected in Los Angeles, but the Lakers (20-25) are hoping their three-game winning streak behind a new style of play is reason for optimism. Nash hit a key 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining in a 111-106 win over New Orleans on Tuesday.
With 12 points, he was one of six Lakers in double figures. Dwight Howard had 24 after being held to single digits in four of the previous five games, and Earl Clark scored 20, his most in nine games as a starter.
Kobe Bryant had double-digit assists for the third straight game with 11 and finished just short of a triple-double again. He had eight rebounds Tuesday after pulling down nine in each of his previous two contests.
"It's working pretty well," Bryant said of his new approach as a playmaker. "It's very easy for me to look over the defense and know where they're coming from, just kind of line my guys up in the right way and just pick them apart."
The Lakers now try to snap their longest road losing streak since they dropped nine in a row March 14-April 5, 2005.
Los Angeles, which is 5-15 on the road, will face a Suns team that's dropped back-to-back games after winning its first two under interim coach Lindsey Hunter. Phoenix (15-30) didn't provide too much of a challenge in a 110-95 loss at Dallas on Sunday.
"We'll get back to work, and make sure we're better prepared next time, and make sure we're a better team on our next showing," Hunter said.
Nash's replacement, Goran Dragic, had a team-best 18 points in the losing effort and scored 22 in the loss to the Lakers in November.
"Every player wants to play well, especially against Steve because he is one of the best point guards," Dragic said.
Bryant scored 31 points and Metta World Peace chipped in 22 in the Lakers' win over the Suns earlier this season, but they've lost their last two games in Phoenix, including a 125-105 defeat April 7.