Steve Nash makes his presence felt again

Fifty-seven days into the season, Steve Nash finally played another home game.

Coincidentally, the Lakers beat the New York Knicks, won on Christmas for the first time since 2008, looked like a nicely balanced machine and gave their fans at Staples Center something beyond the free scarves received upon paid admission.

Yeah, Nash is going to be pretty important to this team.

“You’re talking about one of the greatest point guards ever,” Kobe Bryant said. “So he’s able to line us up and get us into things that he believes will be most effective for us down the stretch.

“We’re constantly communicating on the floor. There are stretches of ballgames where we say, ‘OK, maybe we should go to this. OK, next time let’s go to that.’ But obviously, he’s amazing.”

Nash had 16 points and 11 assists in his second game since a 24-game absence because of a fractured left leg. The Lakers beat the Knicks, 100-94, Nash making seven of 12 shots.

“Kobe got it going and Steve Nash hit some big shots down the stretch,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. “When you have a guy like Steve Nash who can make shots down the stretch, it’s kind of tough.”

Nash’s 10-foot fadeaway gave the Lakers a five-point lead with 1 minute 47 seconds to play. He then missed a runner with 1:09 to play, but it was pretty much forgotten by Lakers fans who hadn’t seen him at Staples Center since the season opener.

“They have all their pieces back,” Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. “Seems like they’re still trying to get in sync but they’re definitely more deadly in the pick-and-roll with Nash.”

M-V-P, M-V-P

Too early to discuss who will be the NBA’s most valuable player? Nah.

Not with the league’s top two scorers going head to head Tuesday.

Bryant and Anthony each had 34 points, but the Knicks (20-8) have the much better record.

Mike D’Antoni coached Anthony for parts of two seasons in New York. He’s more than familiar with the Knicks’ turnaround this season.

“They’re one of the top teams and he’s definitely a big reason why they’re there. So, yeah, you’d have to talk about it,” the Lakers coach said.

Who else besides Anthony?

"[Kevin] Durant‘s always there, LeBron [James] is always there,” D’Antoni added.

What about Bryant?

“I think you have to be one of the top three or four records,” D’Antoni said.

So no Kobe?

“If we can get up to where we need to get up to, but we’ve got to get up there,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t think you can put anybody at MVP and you’re below .500. That just doesn’t work.”

The Lakers improved to 14-14 after beating the Knicks.

Bryant is averaging a league-high 29.9 points and Anthony is averaging 28.5. Durant is right behind Anthony in third, averaging 28.1 points for Oklahoma City (21-6).

Bryant guarded Anthony at the end of Tuesday’s game and, of course, exchanged competitive words with his friend.

“Yeah. For sure. ‘Show me what you’ve got,’” Bryant said. “You trash-talk with your friends. What kind of relationship is that [if you didn’t]?”