On Saturday night, the Lakers visited Oracle Arena to take on the hot Warriors in a tough road contest. The Lakers crushed the Warriors earlier in the season in their first game under Bernie Bickerstaff. This game against a quality road opponent found in the Warriors was a good measuring stick in testing how ready the Lakers truly were to make a championship run.
Steve Nash Returns: The signature headline prior to the game was the return of Steve Nash. The hall of fame point guard’s much anticipated return came after the 38 year old missed 24 games and last played on Halloween night in Portland. The Lakers openly banked on his return during their prior struggles and tonight would show how much Nash really could help the offense.
Mike D’Antoni continued to tweak the starting lineup as he came out with Steve Nash at point guard, Darius Morris at shooting guard, Kobe at small forward, Pau Gasol at power forward and Dwight Howard at center. D’Antoni planned to bring World Peace off the bench because of how much energy the small forward brings on a nightly basis. Darius Morris got the nod to start for defensive purposes.
Attempting to run w/GS, especially when you are as slow as the Lakers, is about as predictable as a Bill Callahan offense in the SuperBowl
— Jabari A. Davis (@LA_SportsTalk) December 23, 2012
Both teams came out firing but failed to avoid sloppy offensive play. Every move one team made, the other was quick to counter. With the Lakers trailing seven to four, Steve Nash made his first basket—a three point field goal to tie the game. Dwight got in early foul trouble with two early ones as well as a technical and was forced to leave the game only five minutes into the first. World Peace was once again a catalyst as he helped the Lakers notch together a 6-0 run which included an incredible alley-oop from Steve Nash to Pau.
Jodie Meeks and World Peace quickly got hot from the outside while Kobe was off to a relatively slow start. Jordan Hill, or “Mr. Activity” provided the Lakers with a few vital extra possessions that helped them claim a 31-27 lead after one.
A young team like the Warriors typically has a strong second quarter filled with energy, making it important for the Lakers to play smart basketball. Just three and a half minutes into the second period, the Lakers were already forced to call a timeout after Jarrett Jack single-handedly tied the game off of Laker turnovers. Dwight Howard continued to struggle on the inside, frustrated by constant pressure from the Warriors.
Steve Nash returned from the game but the Lakers continued to struggle offensively. The Warriors immediately broke them down defensively and a three pointer from Klay Thompson put the Warriors back up by three. The Lakers went right back inside and Dwight drew a foul but only made one free throw. As Dwight picked up his third foul on the ensuing possession, the energy of the Warriors seemed to overwhelm the Lakers.
Gasol is not moving well on defense, and his O has been predictable and plodding.
— Jeff King (@ZephidFB_G) December 23, 2012
As Jarrett Jack continued to burn the Lakers with his speed, Steve Nash continued to direct the offense towards the paint. As the Lakers practically couldn’t buy a bucket, the Warriors soon stretched their own lead to five. Clearly pumped up, Jack continued to drain shots as the Lakers seemed to labor for every bucket. Steve Nash soon found a wide open Bryant for three. Kobe started to heat up and soon knotted the game at 47. A perfectly executed pick and roll between Nash and Hill was answered once again by a bucket from Jarrett Jack. A quick 12-0 by the Warriors spurred by Thompson soon had the Warriors up by 10.
Poor defense from the Lakers at the end of the half had the Warriors leading 61-53.
The Lakers came out looking to trim the Warrior lead and keep Dwight in the game. The two teams battled back and forth for the first few minutes as the Warriors maintained their lead. As Kobe continued to hoist up shots, the Warriors answered with the quickness of their guards. The Lakers were inconsistent on offense: while at one moment they moved the ball the next play they looked like an isolation team. By the time Jarrett Jack came into the game, the Warriors held a ten point lead.
With the Lakers desperate for a run, Kobe found Pau under the basket for a shot and the foul. After Pau converted the free throw, the Lakers had the Warrior need down to seven and desperately needed stops. Outmatched in energy, the Lakers continued to struggle defensively as Jarrett Jack burned them again. After Kobe picked up his fourth foul the Warriors soon had the lead up to 13. The Lakers answered with an emphatic dump from Kobe off an alley oop from Nash.
As Kobe continued to struggle, the Lakers trailed by double digits as the Warriors simply couldn’t miss. Four fouls on Bryant, Howard, and Gasol did not help the Laker cause either. After three, the Lakers continued to play sloppily on both ends of the floor as the Warriors led 87-74.
The Lakers entered the final period with the seemingly impossible task of overcoming a double digit deficit against a quality team on the road. The Lakers had so far been plagued by foul trouble most notably to Dwight Howard. Twelve mere seconds into the fourth quarter, Dwight picked up his fifth foul. D’Antoni, however, made the decision to keep him on the floor and Metta soon cut the Warrior lead to twelve.
Poor rotations continued to hurt the Lakers and prevent them from coming back into the game. On one play, as Dwight rotated for help no Laker filled in his spot leaving the Warriors an easy dunk.
A pretty move from Dwight was followed by good defense and a jumper from Jordan Hill. All of a sudden, a 9-2 Laker run had them down only eight. A thunderous putback from Jordan Hill emphatically had the Lakers down only six. A miss from Thompson led to a Laker score from world peace and the score was 90-86. With the tables turned, the Lakers were now the hustling team. With yet another Warrior turnover, the Lakers continued to pound the ball inside when Kobe replaced World Peace with 7 minutes to go. Kobe then scored on a dunk after a backdoor feed from Howard to cut the lead to two before Kobe picked up his fifth foul.
As Jarrett Jack continued to burn the Lakers, Jordan Hill continued to hustle for the Lakers on the glass. Both Kobe and Dwight were forced to play cautiously, one foul away from elimination. After a three from rookie Harrison Barnes put the Warriors up 7, D’Antoni called a timeout with just under six minutes to go.
With a mini-run of their own, the Lakers were back down by three with a Howard alley oop. A clutch triple from Bryant tied the game at 95 with 4:27 to go. Another clutch triple from Jodie Meeks gave the Lakers the lead. Jarrett Jack answered for the Warriors in this back and forth battle. A putback dunk by Harrison Barnes had the Warriors up by four. After Steve Nash found Dwight on a slip screen Howard was put at the line with 2:27 to go. Howard knocked down both clutch free throws to make it a two point game. A Warrior turnover was answered by a Nash three pointer to give the Lakers the lead. With one minute to go, Kobe hit a clutch jumper to put the Lakers up 105-104. David Lee answered with a bucket of his own as this thriller went down to the wire. The Lakers, with the familiar “Beat L.A.” chant ringing in their ears went to Metta for three. As Metta drilled the clutch jumper, the Lakers held a 108-106 lead with 24 seconds to go. Jarrett Jack promptly tied the game with a clutch pull up jumper leaving the Lakers with a tied game and the ball as 14.9 seconds remained. With the final play, the Lakers went to Kobe, who’s jumper drew iron as the game headed to overtime.
The Lakers started off the overtime period with an ugly offensive possession bailed out by a Howard putback dunk. Nash found Bryant on the next play giving the Lakers vital momentum to star the period. Another Golden State miss had the crowd frustrated and restless. The young Warrior team was melting under pressure, as rookie Festus Ezeli turned the ball over yet again. The Lakers, however failed to turn this into points as Jarrett Jack scored to make it a two point game. The screen and roll between Howard and Nash ended up giving Bryant an open jumper, which he promptly knocked down. As the two teams battled back and forth, Klay Thompson hit a clutch baseline jumper. A missed layup by Thompson for the tie led led to a clutch signature baseline fadeaway from the left side for Kobe.
The Lakers held the ball and a four point lead with one mine to go when Kobe missed and the Warriors drained a three on the break, Steve Nash then calmly drained a one leg fade away and the Warriors trailed by three with 16 seconds to go. After Dwight Howard took an ill-advised foul and fouled out of the game, the Warriors called timeout with eight seconds to go. Golden State’s game tying three point attempt taken by Curry hit back iron.
In Steve Nash’s return, the Lakers made a valiant comeback and won on the road in a thriller despite Jarrett Jack’s incredible game.