The Lakers improved to 13-14 on Saturday night, coming back from 14 points down to win their first overtime game of the season, 118-115, against the Golden State Warriors.
Steve Nash made his return after missing most of the season because of a leg injury he suffered on Oct. 31. Coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game that there weren’t any restrictions. Still, Nash playing 41 minutes after seven weeks off was unexpected.
Nash’s 12 points and nine assists gave a glimpse of what’s to come this season, especially how he orchestrated the team’s offense late in the game. The Lakers were down eight when he entered the game with 8:52 left in the fourth.
Immediately the Lakers scored six straight to climb within two. Nash hit a three-pointer with 1:46 remaining in regulation and then the game-sealing basket with 16.9 seconds left in overtime.
The Lakers waded through foul trouble, which kept Dwight Howard off the floor for most of the night. He picked up his fifth only 12 seconds into the fourth quarter, but D’Antoni stuck with his center until Howard fouled out with 8.8 seconds left in overtime.
Limited time for Howard gave an opportunity for Jordan Hill, who made the most of his 21 minutes, scoring 14 points and getting six crucial offensive rebounds (eight overall).
Darius Morris got the start at shooting guard but only played 9 1/2 minutes. Jodie Meeks played 33 1/2 minutes at shooting guard, with Kobe Bryant starting at small forward. Chris Duhon backed up Nash for 12 minutes, dishing seven assists.
Metta World Peace was a major force off the bench, playing both forward positions but primarily at the four. His late three-pointer in the fourth quarter was nearly the game-winner. Pau Gasol had a slow start but gradually found a way to contribute with 10 boards and six assists.
It wasn’t a pretty game for the Lakers with 20 turnovers, but they hit 11 of 14 from the free-throw line, including a pair of clutch free throws from Howard in the fourth.
Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks didn’t hit the floor, both temporarily out of the rotation as D’Antoni experiments with Meeks, Morris and the power-forward version of World Peace.
It’s going to take some time for the Lakers to truly learn how to play together. Under the circumstances, their late-game execution was surprisingly strong, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The Lakers take a four-game winning streak into their Christmas Day battle against the 19-7 New York Knicks, an opportunity for the team to reach .500 after a difficult, injury-ridden start to the year.