Steve Nash returns, others injured in Lakers’ loss to Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Steve Nash finally played. Steve Blake too.
But all the Steves in NBA history couldn’t have fixed the Lakers’ defense.
Kevin Love and Kevin Martin each broke the 30-point barrier as the Minnesota Timberwolves took a 109-99 victory Tuesday at Target Center.
The lack of defense wasn’t the only unsurprising part — the Lakers quickly lost another two players after getting back their two injured point guards.
Jodie Meeks left a minute into the first quarter because of a sprained right ankle and Jordan Hill was gone a bit later because of a headache and strained neck after teammate Chris Kaman accidentally struck him in the face.
On a stranger note, if possible, Blake kept playing after his eardrum was ruptured in a second-quarter collision with Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham.
“It doesn’t hurt, but everything sounds funny,” Blake said.
Everything hurts for the Lakers, really.
Despite the personnel changes, the Lakers’ thin defense remained. They gave up 100 or more points for a 15th consecutive game, their longest streak since 1988.
On a comforting note for their fans, the franchise record won’t be broken — the Lakers yielded 100 or more points in 71 consecutive games from November 1967 to October 1968. So there’s that.
But the Lakers (16-32) fell to 3-19 since Dec. 21 and limped toward snowy Cleveland for the second game of a back-to-back situation. They also lost their seventh consecutive game, their worst streak since March 2007.
If anything was surprising, Nash looked spry on offense for a guy turning 40 later this week and coming off a three-month layoff because of nerve damage in his back. He had seven points and nine assists in 24 minutes.
“I feel a bit selfish in that we lost, but it felt great just to play in the NBA again and be out there with my teammates,” he said. “It’s about as good as I felt this season. There’s some [pain] feelings for sure, but I don’t mind some pain, I don’t mind some discomfort as long as I can move well and recover.”
Nash will not play Wednesday, part of a rest-and-recovery move planned ahead of time. Jordan Farmar, though, is expected to play for the first time since Dec. 31 (strained hamstring).
The Lakers need all the backcourt help they can get without Meeks, possibly their most consistent player. He was averaging 14.7 points and had scored in double figures in 22 of the last 23 games.
X-rays on his ankle were negative, but Meeks won’t play on the rest of this trip, which ends Friday in Philadelphia.
Hill’s availability for Wednesday was unclear, leaving the Lakers suddenly thin in the post. Pau Gasol is out at least two weeks because of a strained groin.
“Jodie’s a big part of this team and it’s sad to see him go out,” Blake said. “He’s playing really, really well for us. Jordan Hill has an opportunity with Pau being out and now who knows what his prognosis will be. I just feel for those guys. I just was in their position.”
Nash needed only 47 seconds to score on a 16-footer that represented his first points since Nov. 10. In a hint that his back wasn’t hurting, he later found Wesley Johnson streaking for an alley-oop dunk off a pass from just inside the midcourt stripe.
Blake wasn’t as noticeable as Nash. He was scoreless with six assists, five rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes, his first game action since sustaining a torn elbow ligament almost two months ago.
Martin and Love were plenty visible for Minnesota (24-24).
Martin’s efficiency was more like that of a post player than a shooting guard, as he scored 32 points on 13-for-26 shooting. Love had 31 points and took 17 rebounds.
In a final strange salvo, Manny Harris was told by the Lakers before the game that he wouldn’t be retained after his second 10-day contract expires Wednesday.
So he went out and scored 19 points on eight-for-11 shooting and added eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
Nobody flinched. Made perfect sense for the Lakers this season.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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