The Lakers took one step forward in the right direction, but perhaps two steps back Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The return of guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake in the starting lineup was good news for L.A. fans, but the Lakers could not catch a break as Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill all went down with injuries in the process.
Gasol could not join the Lakers on the road trip due to a groin injury and is in Los Angeles to receive treatment. Meeks started against the Timberwolves, but less than two minutes into the game, sprained his ankle after awkwardly landing on a three point shot attempt. Hill also headed back into locker room before the second half after being elbowed by his own teammate Chris Kaman. It seems as though there is a curse or vex, as Nick Young put it, that is keeping the Lakers from being healthy.
One bright point was the return of Steve Nash, who played well in his first game back since November 10. Nash, the oldest active player in NBA, opened the scoring for the Lakers off of a pull up jumper and showed no signs of rust. He seemed to have strength back in his legs to shoot behind the arc and even threw up an alley oop to the high-flying Wesley Johnson. In the first quarter, Nash looked surprisingly fresh and had 4 assists to go with his 4 points in 8 minutes of play.
Steve Blake on the other hand had a quieter comeback and found himself in foul trouble early on. However, in another strange case of the injury bug, Blake ruptured his eardrum in the first half but played through it. The Lakers benefited from Blake’s toughness both defensively and offensively. While Blake never got things going offensively shooting 0-2 on the field with zero points, he had 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in 32 minutes.
The addition of Nash and Blake on the court had an instant impact offensively for the Lakers, who were moving the ball well. However, any improvement on the offensive end was overshadowed by the defensive disaster that is the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Timberwolves bombed the Lakers with 38 points in the first quarter and the Lakers were trailing by as much as 25 points in the second quarter.
What seemed like a sure blowout by the Timberwolves was salvaged by the play of Manny Harris, who scored a career high of 19 points in just 21 minutes with 8 rebounds. Harris helped keep things close and although the Lakers outplayed the Timberwolves in the second half, but it was not enough to undo a horrible first half, and the Lakers fell 99 to 109.
It was a bittersweet game for Harris, who was informed that it would be his last game with the Lakers for the time being as his 10-day contract expires on Wednesday. The Lakers chose not to retain Harris due to the return of Blake and Nash, and the expected return of Jordan Farmar.
Lakers fans do not have much to rejoice about these days, but Nash’s performance was a sight for sore eyes. He finished with 7 points and 9 assists in 25 minutes, which was 10 more minutes than he expected to play. However, what that means for the future remains unclear. Nash being productive this season has little significance for the Lakers, who are in need of nothing less than a miracle to make the playoffs. The main goal for the Lakers should be to keep Nash healthy and hope that the 39-year-old will have one last push in him for a title contention next season.