The Los Angeles Lakers carry a four-game winning streak into their Christmas afternoon showdown with the Eastern Conference leading New York Knicks.
The Lakers winning streak has seen them inch within a game of .500. Three of their four victories during this run came on the road and in the most recent, a 118-115 overtime thriller in Golden State over the Warriors on Saturday, the Lakers welcomed back Steve Nash.
The two-time NBA MVP, who was acquired in the offseason, returned after missing 24 games with a non-displaced fracture to his lower left leg. Nash was a welcome sight considering he ran coach Mike D'Antoni's offense to the tune of two MVPs and a lot of regular-season success.
Nash jumped right back into the fray with both feet on Saturday. He played almost 41 minutes, tallied 12 points and nine assists, all while going 2-for-2 from behind the 3-point line.
"I got through it," Nash said of his long day at the office on Saturday. "It was only my third day of basketball in seven-plus weeks, so it was a lot, but I didn't feel too bad."
Kobe Bryant extended his spectacular run of scoring with 34 points. It was his eighth straight 30-plus point game and the 400th of his future Hall of Fame career.
"We moved the ball extremely well. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard," said Bryant. "That's a good dilemma to have. For us as a team, we just want to be unselfish and whoever is playing well stays in and plays and I think guys accept that."
This was the second game where D'Antoni employed different lineups. Metta World Peace came off the bench with 20 against the Warriors, but players like Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks took sharp dips in their minutes. In fact, Jamison hasn't played in the last two.
The Knicks begin a three-game stint out west with the Christmas afternoon tilt against the Lakers. New York has split its last four outings, but won four in a row prior to that.
On Sunday, the Knicks beat a Kevin Love-less Minnesota Timberwolves, 94-91. Carmelo Anthony once again led the way with 33 points and seven rebounds. He scored 19 points in the final quarter as he continues his push toward the MVP award.
"We had the will to win," Anthony said.
J.R. Smith chipped in 19 off the bench and Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton both had double-figures. In fact, that trio and Anthony finished with 83 of the Knicks 94 points. Starters Jason Kidd and Ronnie Brewer were both held scoreless.
It was an important victory for the Knicks after a sloppy loss on Friday to the Chicago Bulls. Anthony, Chandler and head coach Mike Woodson were all ejected and, despite 45 points in the four quarter, the Knicks fell 110-106.
The Knicks went 4-2 on their six-game homestand. They face the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings on their short road trip.
The Knicks beat the Lakers, 116-107 in New York on Dec. 13. That was two wins in a row for New York in this matchup after Los Angeles took nine in a row. The Knicks haven't won on the road in this series since Feb. 13, 2007.