Steve Nash made his return to the floor on Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland and helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a fourth consecutive win. Nash played heavy minutes in his return despite being unable to play or practice over the course of the last two months, but made an immediate impact with 12 points, nine assists and three rebounds.
With Nash back in the fold and the Lakers riding a four-game winning streak heading into their Christmas Day showdown with the New York Knicks, Mike D’Antoni’s squad might be on the verge of finally turning things around after an ugly start to the season.
Unfortunately, despite the impressive come-from-behind win over the Warriors in overtime, the Lakers are still struggling on the defensive end of the floor. Los Angeles gave up 115 points to Golden State and have given up 100 points or more in 18 of the 27 games played this season.
The new-look roster might be lighting up the scoreboards on a nightly basis with 102.6 points per game (6th in the NBA) and that number will likely improve due to Nash’s return, but the Lakers continue to give up almost 100 points per contest (99.9) and that simply isn’t going to get the job done moving forward.
Dwight Howard talked about the Lakers’ struggles on defense and his role on that end of the floor this season. Howard believes the team will come around defensively, but thinks team defense is crucial to the team’s success via Sam Amick of USA Today:
“This year, (fans and media) look at our defense and basically (see that) it’s terrible,” Howard said. “I need to step my defense up (but) the teams I’ve been on, they’ve played great team defense. And the reason why is because we were in our spots, we talked, we communicated, we had chemistry. We didn’t start off that way. Our team was just as bad when I first got to Orlando as far as defense. But the more time we spent together, the better we got. And then that’s where I got better as a defensive player.”
Nash’s return definitely sparked this team on Saturday with a different kind of flow to the offense that will likely only improve with more time on the floor for the two-time NBA MVP. Defense on the other hand will continue to be a problem for this team moving forward with Howard, Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace needing to step up and lead by example.