LOS ANGELES — Despite Steve Nash making his return to court after missing the last five weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers continued their defensive struggles on Friday as they fell to the Washington Wizards 117-107 behind a 28-point and 14-assist outburst from John Wall.
After trailing by double digits for much of first half, Los Angeles made their run late in the third quarter due to presence of Nash on the floor. The 40-year-old dished out five assists on the Lakers’ last eight made field goals of the quarter that cut the deficit to seven points at 88-81 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the deficit growing to a game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, things got interesting in the final six minutes of the game as Nash was reinserted into the game which seemed to be spark plug to helped them get as close as eight points. However, the lead proved to be too large to overcome as the Wizards had an answer for every Lakers’ basket down the stretch of the game.
“The adjustments would be to run back a little harder, play a little harder, and get up on the pick and roll a little bit harder,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said of his team’s defense. “We don’t have trouble guarding when we’re fired up and ready to go. We have trouble when guys don’t battle through it. I think sometimes we have a hard time keeping our heads up and a lot that spill over from the offense.”
As for Nash in his first game back in over a month, he played well as he finished with five points, 11 assists, and four rebounds in 17 minutes played.
“I feel pretty good,” Nash said. “[There was] a little setback right at the end, that’s why I came out with a couple minutes left, but it was more precautionary. Sometimes I let my ambition get the better of me and I thought if I want to play the rest of the year I better just be careful.
“I haven’t been up-and-do0wn in five weeks, so I had to feel a little bit lucky for what I did get out there and to get through it I think, more or less, unscathed.”
With the game in hand for the Wizards with a 108-98 lead with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter, it got a little testy as an altercation broke out between Nick Young and Drew Gooden as Young was dragged to the floor by Gooden. Jordan Hill then responded by getting into the face of Marcin Gortat as both had to pulled away by their teammates.
After the altercation ceased, the referees decided to hand Gooden a flagrant-two foul that resulted in an immediate ejection, Hill received a technical and was ejected, and Young was given a technical foul.
For Young, he felt that his teammates had his back time around which was a stark contrast from his last altercation against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 15 that landed him a one-game suspension.
“I feel we bond and grow from things like that,” Young said. “For me, it’s [season] frustration. I just want to go out there and try to get as many wins as possible and play as hard as I can and show my pride and Laker pride out there.”
Friday’s game for Young also marked his first game back since Feb. 23 as he was sidelined for the last 17 out of the last 18 games due to soreness and pain in his left knee.
“I felt a little rusty out there at times. I was super winded,” Young said, who scored 19 points in his return. “Sometimes I just felt like calling a timeout and going to the sideline, but I tried my best to fight through everything. It felt good and hopefully I can continue to play like this.”
It was not a great start to the game for Los Angeles as they quickly fell behind 15-6 as Washington made their 6-of-7 from the field that included three 3-pointers and an assist on each field. The Lakers did not fare much better the remainder of the quarter as the deficit grew to as much as 14 points, and allowed the Wizards to shoot 61 percent from the field that included 17 fast break points and 11 assists on 14 made field goals in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Los Angeles tightened up their defense as they forced the Wizards to shoot 39 percent from the field and received 19 points from their bench led by Xavier Henry, who scored eight of his 10 first half points. However, Washington did not allow the Lakers to get any closer than nine points in the quarter as they led by 58-47 at the half with three players in double figures.
The loss for the Lakers marked their fifth in the last six games against the Wizards, and seventh in the last eight games overall this season.
After the loss to the Wizards, the four-year guard received an x-ray on a sprained left wrist which the results came out negative and he is expected to undergo an MRI on Saturday.
“I fell on it in the third quarter,” Henry, who scored 12 points in Friday’s game. “It’s going to be sore, but I will feel a lot better about it that the x-rays were negative. So I will get an MRI tomorrow and hopefully everything is good from there.”
If Henry does miss anytime expect either Young or Kent Bazemore to fill his void in the rotation.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill