Steve Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night at Staples Center. Nash and the Lakers last faced Portland on Halloween in the second game of the season.
Steve Nash suffered a freak injury that resulted in a broken leg and two months of unimpressive Lakers basketball.
Nash broke his leg, and the Lakers felt the pain. Mike Brown was fired as coach three games later, and Mike D’Antoni was eventually named head coach, presumably because of his successful history with Nash in Phoenix.
The Lakers are playing their 30th game of the season on Friday night, but the team that was expected to go to the NBA Finals is not even in the playoff picture at the moment. Instead, their Staples Center co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers, are currently sitting atop of the NBA with the best record in the league.
The Lakers take on the Clippers exactly one week from Friday night’s game against Portland, and that game is expected to be a huge measuring stick for how good the Lakers can be this season. The Clippers are currently on a 15-game winning streak, and they do not appear to be slowing down one bit.
Before looking ahead, the Lakers need to prove they have the energy and desire to get back in the playoff picture. Portland is 14-13 and currently sitting in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Lakers are only one game back of Portland, so a win on Friday night would go a long way to improving the Lakers’ playoff chances.
The Lakers were lucky to dodge a suspension for Dwight Howard’s flagrant foul on Denver’s Kenneth Faried, and the Lakers’ center was fined $35,000 by the league office. The Lakers were also dealt a potential blow when an MRI revealed that Pau Gasol was suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
On Friday’s shootaround, coach D’Antoni confirmed that Gasol would start against Portland and that there were no limits on his minutes.
The Lakers are 9-6 at home and the Blazers are 4-9 on the road. With the current squad, the Lakers should be able to handle the Blazers. When the Lakers lost on Halloween, the Lakers suffered a 24-turnover game and literally handed the ball to the Blazers. Also, rookie point guard Damian Lillard had his way with the Lakers recording 23 points and 11 assists.
If the Lakers want to make a statement on Friday, they need to rebound, take care of the basketball, and put together a comprehensive win. With Nash back, there is no excuse to lose on Friday night.