The injury to Steve Nash may seem like a big loss, but the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t going to miss him much as they finish the regular season in search of a playoff appearance.
Nash injured his hamstring against the Sacramento Kings last month. He left that game early and has missed five consecutive games since. According to the Lakers' official Twitter page, Nash will be missing even more time.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the injury hasn’t ruined their playoff chances, and it won’t make an impact even if Nash misses the remainder of the season.
Including the game against the Kings, the Lakers have gone 5-1 without Nash. In those six games, they have averaged 100.3 points per game. The team has averaged 102.2 points per game over the year. While Nash is considered to be one of the best distributors of the ball in the NBA, his absence hasn’t exactly been noticed on offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defense has actually improved. In those six games, the team has allowed only 95.7 points per game in comparison to the 101.1 points per game over the year.
Nash has never been a good defender throughout his career. This season has been no different. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his defensive rating this season is at an estimated 111 points per 100 possessions, the worst rating on the Lakers. Over the course of his entire career, his defensive rating has never been lower than 105.
With their final three games against the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets, the Lakers need solid play out of the point guard position.
Since the loss of Nash, Steve Blake has done a pretty solid job. He’s averaged 9.2 points, 2.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. While none of these numbers jump out, he’s understood his role with the team and focused on efficiency. That efficiency is highlighted by his good shot selection, shooting 47.6 percent over this stretch.
While Blake has been able to pick up the slack, the real reason the Lakers don’t need to worry is that Kobe Bryant is playing like a man possessed at the moment.
Despite being 34 years old, the Black Mamba has been carrying this team with his scoring game after game. He’s averaged 28 points over the last six games, shooting 42.3 percent from the field. His scoring has increased each game for over that span, including the 47-point performance against the Portland Trailblazers.
Kobe was able to play all 48 minutes in the game against the Trailblazers. In fact, he’s averaged 45.7 minutes per game since Nash’s injury. The team is asking him to carry the load, and he hasn’t slowed down yet.
Thanks to the play of Kobe and Blake, this team is in good shape for the final few games. They only have a one-game lead for the No. 8 seed, so it certainly isn’t over. However, the absence of Nash has actually improved the play of this team, and that will translate to a playoff berth.