It was an early Christmas miracle for the Los Angeles Lakers. Santa Claus delivered an early Christmas present to them in Oakland, as Steve Nash returned to action and the Lakers took down the Golden State Warriors, 118-115, in overtime at the Oracle Arena.
The Lakers came into the season wanting the moon, but lassoing the moon and keeping it for your own is an incredible undertaking.
The game against the Warriors was a lot of things, but more than anything else it felt like a turning point for the Lakers, as they finally played a game with their four superstars assembled together.
Not only that, they beat a Warriors team that was coming into the game with an 18-9 record and a 9-3 clip going for the duration of December.
it was a valuable win for the Lakers, and it should do a lot for their psyche as they make their way back above .500.
So who or what gets credit for the Lakers win? Was it a collapse by the Warriors, who led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter? Perhaps Kobe Bryant for scoring 34 points, or the bench pouring in 46 of their own?
Well, there's a lot of credit to dole out, but you have to imagine that this win never would have happened if Nash had waited until Christmas to return to action.
Down the stretch, he was able to hit a go-ahead three-pointer and the final bucket of the game, a 14-footer in the lane that all but took the wind out of the sails of the Warriors' overtime effort.
What would have become of the game if it were Darius Morris—who finished with just nine-plus minutes—on the floor instead of Nash?
Spacing would have been worse, the offense would have less of a purpose and Bryant would have most likely taken those shots while being double-teamed.
Nash had his fingerprints all over this game from the get-go.
While Kobe was able to score 34 points, it was one of those games that critics would have pointed to in recent weeks—one in which he hogs the ball and ends up destroying any offensive flow that the team would have otherwise been able to create.
There's a reason the Lakers were able to pull out a win in a game in which Bryant went 16-of-41 from the floor, and that's Nash.
Basically, Nash's return was able to fix the glaring problems in the Lakers offense, allowing them to win even though Kobe had a terrible game in the early going.
By all means it looked like it was going to be a disaster of a game, but Nash was able to run the offense in a way that led to involvement of the entire team in between Kobe's isolation plays that worked to varying degrees of success.
Nash was able to generate multiple "tic-tac-toe" plays in which Nash would come off a screen from Dwight Howard or Jordan Hill and work the ball into Pau Gasol, who would then decide to either shoot or pass to a trailer coming to the hoop.
Gasol wound up with six assists in the game, three of which came in the fourth quarter in the midst of the Lakers' comeback.
A game in which Kobe shoots the ball 20 to 25 times usually means the offense is going to go stagnant and assists will come at a premium. When he's shooting the ball 40 times, though, we're in uncharted territory as far as this season is concerned.
The team ended up totaling 33 assists regardless of Kobe's antics, a full 13 more than its season average.
That's no accident, and neither is the fact that their offense looked well-oiled down the stretch.