Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/23/12
OAKLAND The most important player on the Los Angeles Lakers' star-studded team sat wrapped in a black robe at his locker after the game, his body hurting, his words at times whispered, the exhaustion emanating from him in waves. He'd just returned from seven weeks off with a leg injury and somehow managed to play 41 dazzling minutes and use them to spin the Lakers into an entirely new team. "We needed it," Steve Nash said of the Lakers' rousing 118-115 comeback and overtime win over the Golden State Warriors. "We need to build every day. And we needed something to build on." What they needed, it turned out, was Steve Nash himself. That idea that Nash's return wouldn't by itself prove enough to reverse the Lakers' 2012 doldrums? Dismiss it. For one night, at least, he made a notion that had seemed like the wishful thinking of embattled head coach Mike D'Antoni look pretty damn real. The man Kobe Bryant called a great point guard after the win, the leader D'Antoni labeled, simply and accurately, a "winner," and the missing ingredient Dwight Howard curiously dodged praising after his own tough outing was everything every one of them needed him to be. Nash turned a flood of faults, many belonging to those three men, into the team's best win of the season. It came with a mix of awe and delighted surprise to sit in the stands and watch Nash return and change everything. Watching him work alchemy on the Lakers prompted that rare feeling that comes with watching an all-time great who still has it at an age 38 that reminds you his magic is fleeting, that the greatness unrolling before your eyes is special in part because it cannot go on forever. That was what bubbled across the brain as Nash hit huge shots down the stretch, including a 14-footer with 36 seconds left in overtime that sealed it, as he made incredible passes, as he turned the pick and roll into an art form, as he created space for a team suddenly alive with confidence, as he undercut a Warriors team that is very, very good. Nash finished with 12 points and nine assists in a game in which his numbers couldn't do justice to his impact. "I think that we're a completely different team with him out there," D'Antoni said. Most important for the Lakers, Nash obscured the glaring issues that before his return had sunk them, had filled the locker room with doubt and had cast a shadow over D'Antoni's leadership. Bryant's mind-boggling shot selection? He was 16-of-41 41! but it didn't matter. Howard's lackluster competitive spirit, highlighted by the fact he played just 28 minutes during an overtime game because he picked up five early fouls and finished with just 11 points and six rebounds? An afterthought. That porous defense that has marked D'Antoni's brief L.A. tenure much more than his up-tempo offense? No big thing. EvenHoward's surly mood after the game, and what it does or does not portend about his ability to accept a sometimes-diminished role or diminished nights if the team wins big games, can wait for another time. The fact is, the Lakers needed this win as much as they needed to look, finally, like the Los Angeles Lakers. "We played hard," said Bryant, who had 34 points."That's the thing we talked about during our time off. Dwight had four or five fouls at the time. Pau had four or five fouls. We weren't playing particularly well. I wasn't shooting the ball well. We just said that we had to go harder. It didn't matter what the challenge was. We just had to go harder, and that's exactly what we did." Harder meant coming back from a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. It meant taking everything the battle-tested and still 18-10 Warriors threw at them. Harder meant seven lead changes in the fourth quarter, it meant Kobe scoring seven of hispoints in the fourth quarter and overtime, it meant Nash hitting a huge three with 1:46 left in the fourth-quarter to give the Lakers a lead and Nash using a pick and roll to get the ball to Howard, who got it to an open World Metta Peace with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter to again take a lead. It meant, as the Warriors answered every barrage, finally seeing a Lakers team able to step up to a big moment against a very good team and get it done. Nash, for his part, said there's more to it than him. "If we become a great team, that's not down to me," he said. "If we don't, it's not down to me either." A week ago I would have agreed with him. Today? Today, having seen him in action, I'm not so sure. There are a ton of problems and issues that the Lakers will have to work out to get where they want to go. But maybe Steve Nash really is the answer to solving them and getting there. You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at foxsportsreiter@gmail.com.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Chris Long will not re-sign with Patriots, hints he wants bigger role

Nerlens Noel late for Mavs team plane, loses chance to start

Ex-NFLer Will Allen sentenced to six years in prison for Ponzi scheme

Five Richmond baseball players suspended for playing fantasy football

Kristaps Porzingis: Knicks should have used triangle all season

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

‘Game of Thrones’ theme nights are coming to MLB

Report: Saban turned down interest from six NFL teams

Browns will listen to offers for first pick in 2017 NFL Draft

Rams officially place franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson

11-year-old writes letters to NBA teams to tout Monmouth player

Doug Marrone affirms that Blake Bortles is Jaguars’ quarterback

With Joel Embiid out, who should win Rookie of the Year?

Box Score 3/1: It's all about Durant and his knee

The 'Simone Biles vs. Mr. T dance-off you didn't know you wanted until now' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Daryl Morey burns up the phone lines

The top 10 MLB left fielders headed into spring training 2017

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

The best sports movies available to stream right now

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Box Score 2/28: Fat Tuesday means athletes on floats.

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

With Joel Embiid out, who should win Rookie of the Year?

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Daryl Morey burns up the phone lines

The 'Simone Biles vs. Mr. T dance-off you didn't know you wanted until now' quiz

The top 10 MLB left fielders headed into spring training 2017

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in the 1980s

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season since 2000

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker