Steve Nash in starting lineup for Lakers
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
SAN ANTONIO – Steve Nash will start for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in Game One of their first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. He missed eight games with a hamstring injury, but will be back in the lineup to offer the sort of shooting threat that the Lakers so badly need and the Spurs have struggled to defend of late.
Nash will join guard Steve Blake, small forward Metta World Peace and big men Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in the starting lineup. Asked how Nash changes things in this game in light of the fact that the 39-year-old is coming off an eight-game absence, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich replied, “He hasn’t forgotten how to shoot.”
The late lineup change ensures that, no matter who wins, the Lakers and Spurs will have this much in common: their coaches can’t possibly know what to expect from their respective teams.
Popovich admitted before tipoff that he is as concerned about his group as he has ever been heading into the playoffs. San Antonio was 10-10 down the stretch and lost seven of its last 10 games, and Popovich said he’s not about place all of that blame on late-season injuries to Tony Parker (ankle), and Manu Ginobili (right hamstring) that surely played a part. Parker is considered fully healthy, while Ginobili – who returned from a nine-game absence in the regular season finale – will be on a minutes limit as he continues to recover.
“I think we ended it worse than I can ever remember the entire time I’ve been here,” said Popovich, who became head coach in 1996. “Going into the playoffs, we’ve never been that discombobulated. We were doing really well defensively compared to last year – we’d become one of the top teams in the league defensively after being mediocre the year before. And then that dissipated the last three, four weeks of the season. That was a big concern.
“Then with Manu and Tony and their injuries exacerbated that situation. But we’re not on a momentum roll or anything like … [For more on Steve Nash in starting lineup for Lakers, click here.]