If Steve Nash is able to make his return, the Los Angeles Lakers have a better chance to extend their winning streak to a season high four straight games Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors.
Nash has been out since a loss at Portland on Oct. 31, when he sustained a fractured left fibula. In his first year with the Lakers, Nash is expected to run the point and manage a team loaded with talent. Now that his former coach in Phoenix, Mike D'Antoni, is running the L.A. show, expectations of a high octane offense are dancing in the minds of the Lakers.
But Nash just returned to practice for a Lakers team that is 12-14 on the season and has won three in a row since a four-game slide.
"We don't need to rush it," Nash said after practice. "The tendency is to want to come back as soon as possible, but I don't want to miss another 10 games because I aggravated something."
D'Antoni was impressed with how Nash practiced Thursday.
"He looked good, real good," D'Antoni said. "You never know how he wakes up. The first step was good and positive, he looks good on the floor, he said he felt good."
Nash has said he'll "for sure" be back for LA's Christmas Day game against visiting New York but there's an outside chance his return could come a bit earlier if he's able to go on Saturday.
The Lakers did not look good in a 101-100 win versus the Charlotte Bobcats the last time out on Tuesday. They were able to erase an 18-point deficit in the third quarter thanks to Kobe Bryant's seventh straight game with 30 or more points. Lakers center Pau Gasol returned to the lineup after missing eight games due to injury and posted 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
"We didn't panic. We stayed the course," said Bryant, who is the first player in NBA history to score 30-plus points in seven straight games at 34-plus years of age.
Lakers prized offseason acquisition Dwight Howard registered 16 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in the win, while Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks each netted 17 points.
L.A. looks to improve its 4-8 road record Saturday against the Warriors and has won two straight as the visitor.
Golden State, which is surprisingly 5 1/2 games ahead of LA in the standings, is coming off a win after coasting to Friday's 115-100 decision over the visiting Bobcats.
David Lee posted a triple-double and Stephen Curry made a career-high eight 3- pointers to help lift the Warriors.
Lee posted 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Curry hit on 8-of-13 triples en route to 27 points for the Warriors, who bounced back after a loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
"He's been that good all year long," Golden State head coach Mark Jackson said of Lee. "Stef was again spectacular. Those are my leaders, and they are doing a great job of setting the tone."
In the victory, Lee scored at least 20 points for the 11th straight game, setting a new career high and Curry knocked down at least seven 3-pointers for the second consecutive contest.
The Warriors dropped a 101-77 decision at Los Angeles on Nov. 9 this season as Bryant poured in a game-high 27 points in that one. Curry paced Golden State with 18 points and five assists, but his team has lost five in a row and 17 of the last 18 meetings between the Pacific foes.
The Lakers have won 12 of 14 and 14 of their last 17 at Golden State.