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Final Score: Lakers Claw Past Warriors, 118-115

Steve Nash returns to action as the Lakers pull off a breathtaking comeback victory.

Ezra Shaw

When was the last time a Lakers game was this much fun to watch? Not recently, I'll tell you what. Tonight's overtime win over Golden State, a pulse-accelerating instant classic, was beyond entertaining for the fans and could well signal a turnaround for the Lake Show's season. True, they'd already won three in a row heading into tonight's contest, but none of those victories was of a compelling quality. No, this... this was something else. On the road, down by double digits in the fourth quarter to one of the hottest teams in the league, the Lakers pulled themselves together and scratched their way to their best W of the year, one that sends them into their holiday showdown with the Knicks with a sense that maybe the worst is behind them.

A key reinforcement arrived this evening in the person of Steve Nash. Finally in playing condition after breaking his leg on Halloween night, Nash started and played 41 minutes. It wasn't a performance that'll show up in the highlight reel at his Hall of Fame induction, but it was impossible to miss his positive influence on the Lakers' form. He ran the offense deferentially but made several key passes (9 assists on the night) and pitched in 12 points on eight shots. His knee help up despite a couple good knocks, and somehow his stamina held up despite heavy minutes in a fast-paced OT game. Perhaps Mike D'Antoni oversold the effect Nash's return would have, but a lot of people out there have been underselling it. Nash is back, and with him the Lakers are a different team.

For a while tonight it looked like they'd follow an unfortunate pattern they've established this season by losing a game in the second quarter. We've seen it several times already: a tight contest tilts in opponents' favor after the Lakers allow a huge run in the second period. They manage a fourth quarter comeback, but it's just not enough. In the last nine minutes of the second quarter tonight, the Warriors went from five down to eight up, and for the most part they maintained that cushion until the early fourth. That's when the purple and gold started landing some punches and cutting down the Golden State lead, but when Harrison Barnes dropped in a three-pointer with just under six to play to put the Warriors back up seven, I assumed the late surge was over and that we'd once again have to look back on a poor first half to figure out where things went wrong.

But the Lakers didn't buckle. They did things we don't usually associate with their tarnished brand, like playing with desire and finding backbone in times of adversity. After that Barnes three they scored on their next four possessions, three involving Pau Gasol assists, to pull ahead briefly before Barnes and Jarrett Jack answered with clutch hooping of their own. The lead ping-ponged over a breathless final few minutes of regulation. The Lakers had the last possession, and I probably don't need to tell you they used it on a failed Kobe Bryant iso. Though that threatened to take the air out of a great comeback, the Lakers calmly went about using team ball in overtime to find good looks and put the Dubs away. Relief and a sense of a season reborn swept through Lakerdom when Gasol intercepted a Festus Ezeli pass with a second left on the clock.

There's honestly just too much we could get to in this recap, so let me fire off some rapid thoughts about the following guys....

Kobe Bryant - A classic Kobe performance in every way. True, he took 41 shots, but if you scale the possession count down from 112, the Lakers' total on the night, to a more typical 92 it's the equivalent of his taking 34 shots. Which... actually, that's still an incredible number. Kobe was guilty of occasional ballhoggery, but he did connect on a lot of key hoops down the stretch, and his three offensive boards led to five second-chance points that would obviously prove critical.

Dwight Howard - A disaster until late in the fourth quarter. Dwight couldn't keep himself out of foul trouble even though the Warriors' center is Festus Ezeli, and for a while it seemed that if the Lakers were going to win it would be in spite of Howard rather than because of him. Late into the night, though, Howard returned to walk the earth. A major factor in the game is that Golden State had nobody to attack him directly and tag him with his sixth foul (until there were mere seconds left in OT and the outcome was decided). He was a strong defensive presence late and made 3 of 4 from the line to foil any Hack-a-Dwight strategy Mark Jackson might've been keeping in his back pocket.

Pau Gasol - Didn't make much of an impact except in the passing game. Out of the high post he did what he does, routing the ball to the open man and from strong side to weak. His assist count (6) might've reached double digits if guys had buried a few more open shots. Not a great night on defense, though. David Lee and Carl Landry had too easy a time scoring on him.

Metta World Peace and Jordan Hill - monsters with a capital MON. When the Warriors threatened to run away with the game, they held firm and helped turn it into a physical brawl. Together they went for 34 points, 13 boards, 3 assists and just 1 turnover. Huge daps to both. They are the emotional backbone of this team.

Jodie Meeks - It felt like he had an off night, but check the boxscore and you'll see he finished with 12 points on nine shots and seven rebounds. Not bad for an off night. Remember when Mike Brown refused to play him? Lol, what the hell was that?

The Lakers now have two days off before a surprisingly critical showdown with the Knicks. Lose and doubts intensify about their ability to play with the NBA's elite. Win and they're back to 0.500, they've broken the Christmas Day curse and they're rolling toward 2013 with a good head of steam.

Not to mention a shiny new (well, recently refurbished) point guard.










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