Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2012
OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Nash sliced through the lane, broke down the defense, and created shots for Kobe Bryant time and again, just the way he has for teammates throughout his brilliant 17-year NBA career.
So much for an adjustment period.
Bryant had 34 points and 10 rebounds, Nash finished with 12 points and nine assists in his first game in almost two months, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Golden State Warriors 118-115 in overtime on Saturday night.
“It’s easy. It’s very easy. It’s beyond easy,” Bryant said about playing with Nash, who had missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. “You put two guys together who can do opposite things and it fits extremely well. When I get a rebound, I look to get the ball in his hands because I know I will be getting an easy shot.”
While defense remains an issue for the Lakers, the offense had no problems in Nash’s return.
Metta World Peace and Nash each made a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minutes of regulation before the Warriors came back. World Peace scored 20 points, and Nash converted a step-back shot for the final basket in overtime to lift Los Angeles to its fourth straight victory.
“To play 40 minutes after seven weeks was more than I could ask for,” Nash said. “I felt in a decent rhythm. I feel positive about it. We’ll see (Sunday). I’ll have to keep working on it. I know it will be sore and painful but I’m used to that.”
The 38-year-old Nash was injured in the second game of the season, the former Phoenix star’s first with the Lakers, who have struggled for most of this season without their point guard.
Nash showed no signs of rust throughout the game, and not in the crucial moments, either.
Nash’s 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 103-102 lead with a little less than 2 minutes left in regulation.
“The guy is a winner,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of Nash, who he also coached with the Suns. “There was a difference before the game. He changes everything. He changes the whole perspective.”
D’Antoni said before the game that Nash’s return could be a fresh start for the franchise, especially with more difficult matchups looming, including one against the New York Knicks (19-7) on Christmas.
He said the lineup with Nash is what he envisioned when the Lakers called him in November to replace Mike Brown, who was fired after a 1-4 start to his second season.
With Nash anchoring D’Antoni’s fast-paced system, the Lakers had no problem settling in offensively.