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Lakers News: What Steve Nash's Return to Rotation Means for LA vs. Knicks

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 22:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammates  Steve Nash #10 and Darius Morris #1 in the final seconds of overtime after they secured their victory over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on December 22, 2012 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2012

Steve Nash returned to the Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup after missing nearly two months with a fractured left fibula, and the result was encouraging to say the least.

The two-time league MVP led the Lake Show past the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and dishing out nine assists in 41 minutes of action in the team's 118-115 come-from-behind overtime win over its division rival on the road.

Next up for Nash and the Lakers, the vaunted New York Knicks on Christmas Day.

Before Tuesday's marquee clash tips off, let's break down what Steve Nash's return to the rotation means for the Lakers in their much anticipated matchup with the Knicks.

 

Creator

Nash is one of the all-time best creators in NBA history. No, he won't be making Lakers fans forget about Magic Johnson anytime soon, but the 38-year-old is the best playmaker on L.A.'s roster without question.

Heading into Game No. 28 of the season on Christmas Day vs. New York, L.A. ranks 21st in the league in assists per game, averaging just 20.8 per night. In Nash's first game back, Saturday night against Golden State, the Lakers recorded 33 assists as a team, spearheaded by Nash's nine dimes.

With Nash back in the rotation, Lakers fans can expect to see better ball movement on Christmas Day and beyond. 

He plays with a pace and always dribbles and penetrates with the purpose to set up others for easy looks, which is the mark of a true creator.

 

Outside Shooting

I'm not sure the Lakers can ever be as potent as the Knicks from beyond the arc, but Nash's return ensures that L.A. will have the firepower on the perimeter capable of toppling New York.

The Lakers already rank sixth in the NBA in three-point shooting coming into Tuesday's showdown at the Staples Center, hitting 37.2 percent of their long-range jumpers this season. That number could go up, though, as Nash works his way back into the squad and begins firing away from outside more often.

Nash is shooting 43 percent from downtown in three games this season (3-for-7), but is a career 43 percent shooter from deep. 

Even better news for L.A., the Knicks are giving up the highest opposing three-point percentage in the league this season, at around 37 percent. The lesson here is that the Knicks are vulnerable to the three-point shot, and Nash brings that threat every night.

 

Point Guard

Nash's return means that the Lakers finally have a point guard to run Mike D'Antoni's system, perhaps the best to ever play under D'Antoni going back to their years together in Phoenix. D'Antoni had the following to say about Nash prior to Saturday night's game vs. Golden State (via LA Times' Mike Bresnahan):

"The biggest thing is that he's one of the best point guards to play the game in the last 10 years so obviously we should be better."

And this was D'Antoni on Nash after the game (via ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne):

"The guy is a winner. There was a difference before the game. He changes everything. He changes the whole perspective."

The veteran floor general arrives just in time to lead the Lakers, who rank second-to-last in fewest turnovers per game this season (16.1) against the Knicks, who have turned the ball over fewer times (10.7) than any other team in the league this year.

Plus, New York ranks fifth in opponents turnovers per game (15.9), and it's no secret that the Knicks' high-powered offense feasts of its opponents' mistakes.

Nash turned the ball over just three times in 41 minutes of play against Golden State on Saturday night, and averages just three turnovers per game for his career, which is amazing when you consider how often he handles the ball and how many times he sets up teammates with easy shots. 

Darius Morris and Chris Duhon can move over, because Nash is back, and with him the Lakers' chances of righting the Hollywood ship.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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