Steve Nash returns, but Lakers still lose to Wizards, 117-107
Reinforcements arrived for the Lakers at a time when they could exchange their entire roster for the Western Conference All-Stars and it wouldn’t matter.
Their season is pretty much done.
On the bright side, Steve Nash may not be.
The veteran point guard played only eight days after being declared out for the season, about the only highlight of the Lakers’ 117-107 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday night at Staples Center.
Nash tallied a season-high 11 assists to go with five points, four rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes while coming off the bench for the first time since March 9, 2000, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. He started the final 20 games that season and every game for the next 14 seasons — his streak of consecutive starts reaching 975 — before Friday.
“Just to feel good and feel like you can make a play for your teammates and put pressure on the other team and move freely,” Nash said. “It’s why I love this game and that’s why I’ve kept fighting and trying to work in case I got another opportunity.”
Nash said he came out of the game in the fourth quarter after tweaking his back but remained hopeful he could play Sunday against the Orlando Magic. Lakers guard Xavier Henry also hurt his left wrist and said he would have an MRI exam on Saturday after X-rays were negative.
Nick Young (21 points) and Jordan Hill (nine points, 14 rebounds) also returned for the Lakers after lengthy absences, helping them remain relatively close against playoff-bound Washington. Jodie Meeks also had 21 points for the Lakers.
Ultimately, they provided too little resistance against Wizards guard John Wall, who had 28 points and 14 assists.
The Lakers (22-46) did put up some literal fight late in the fourth quarter, Young pushing Washington’s Drew Gooden after the players’ arms had become entangled and Gooden forcefully tried to free himself from Young.
“I felt like he was trying to WWF me, flip me over,” Young said. “He had my arm locked trying to get a foul and he ended up falling and I got my adrenaline going. It was over after that.”
Hill then shoved Wizards center Marcin Gortat away from a scrum of players before wrapping Gortat in a bear hug. Hill and Gooden were ejected and Young received a technical foul.
It was a vastly different scene than one in Phoenix in January in which Young was angered by his teammates not coming to his defense after a fight.
“I owe Jordan a night out,” Young said. “I’m going to take him somewhere, have some lunch or something.”
Nash made his first appearance since Feb. 11, when he suffered a recurrence of the nerve irritation in his back that has limited him to 11 games this season. There was concern in that Nash might never play another NBA game.
Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters March 13 that Nash would not return this season because it didn’t make sense for him to push his 40-year-old body with so few games left.
Then Jordan Farmar strained his right groin in practice Monday, opening the door for Nash.
After entering the game to warm applause late in the first quarter, Nash quickly found Hill for a jump hook and made a couple of behind-the-back passes on the way to collecting five assists in his first six minutes.
D’Antoni said Nash probably would continue to come off the bench unless he “gets to a certain point and gets that good” because of limited practice time and the Lakers wanting to be cautious with his body.
Nash has one more season and $9.7 million left on his contract but could be waived by Sept. 1, allowing the Lakers to spread out his salary over three seasons.
He would prefer to prove over the next month that he’s ready to play one more.
Correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.
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