LOS ANGELES - Steve Nash made a triumphant NBA return for the Los Angeles Lakers and now the perennial contenders hope they can finally live up to pre-season expectations as a championship threat.
Nash scored 12 points and passed out nine assists in 41 minutes on the court as the Lakers defeated host Golden State 118-115 in over-time on Saturday. He had missed the previous 24 games with a broken left leg.
"To play 40 minutes after seven weeks was more than I could ask for," Nash said. "I'll have to keep working on it. I know it will be sore and painful but I'm used to that."
Kobe Bryant scored 34 points to lead the Lakers, who improved to 13-14 with their fourth victory in a row. It was Bryant's eight game in a row with at least 30 points and the 400th such game of his career.
"Steve likes to pass. I like to shoot," Bryant said.
The Lakers have also welcomed back Spanish power forward Pau Gasol, who missed eight games with tendinitis in his knees.
Golden State, 18-10, had won 15 games in a row when entering the fourth quarter with a lead but the Warriors blew a 14-point lead in the last period in falling to the Lakers, in large part because Nash ignited a late comeback.
"I thought there was some improvement in some areas," Nash said. "I think we grew up a little bit in the fact that we battled and hung in there."
That was great news for Mike D'Antoni, who had coached two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nash at Phoenix but had not guided him with the Lakers since taking over after the Canadian point guard's injury.
"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," said D'Antoni. "We'll see what problems we still have and try to iron them out."
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