Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will both play through injuries on Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings. Bryant is suffering from bone spurs in his injured left ankle, while Nash is suffering from multiple injuries that included his hamstring, hip and back.
On early Saturday afternoon, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni stated that both players took part in morning shootaround, and both told the coach they were ready to play.
With only nine games remaining in the season, the Lakers need Bryant and Nash for every remaining game.
On Saturday morning, the Lakers woke up in ninth place and out of the Western Conference playoffs. The Jazz had hurdled LA by winning three games in a row to reclaim the eighth spot. The Lakers have lost four out of the last five and are back in the unenviable position of needing outside help to qualify for the postseason.
Before looking too far ahead, the Lakers need to focus on Sacramento Kings. The Kings comfortably beat the Lakers in their November NorCal meeting—D’Antoni’s first loss in charge of the Lakers. In their two Southern California meetings, though, the Lakers comfortably handled the Kings.
However, Sacramento has won three of its last four home games, including an impressive 15-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Overall, Sacramento is on a two-game winning streak that included a win at Golden State.
What does all this mean? The Lakers could easily lose to the Sacramento Kings and put their playoffs chances on life support. That is likely a major reason Nash and Bryant are playing through injuries. The Lakers need every win, and they need every able body.
To be more accurate, the Lakers need every injured body.
With Metta World Peace still not sure of what is going on and Nash and Bryant hobbled, the Lakers would be wise to rely on Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to control the pace of Saturday’s game.
Gasol and Howard have been efficient and effective in each of the last two games, but the Lakers have inexplicably ignored their superior size advantage late in games. Bryant has deservedly shouldered much of the criticism for disrupting the Lakers’ late-game offensive flow.
On Saturday, Bryant and the Lakers must avoid the trap of playing individual one-on-one basketball against the Kings. If the Lakers want to win on Saturday and give themselves a chance at the playoffs, they must throw the ball inside and utilize their size.