One of the top reasons the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Steve Nash from Phoenix during the off-season was for the playoffs.
Counting the last eight games, Nash has missed 32 games this season, and his status for Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs Saturday in the first round of the playoffs remains in doubt.
The 39-year-old still led the team in assists at 6.7 per game this year, but a laundry list of injuries, the most recent being a hamstring strain, have limited his overall impact on the team.
Nash missed 24 games with a fractured tibia, and the hamstring injury brought on older issues with his hip, and a re-aggravated back injury that forced him to lay on the court in between quarters in Phoenix.
According to reports, two epidurals were injected to help with the hamstring, but Nash is still listed as day-to-day prior to Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Eastern-time match-up in San Antonio.
Since he went down eight games ago, the Lakers have gone 7-1 and snuck up to No. 7 spot in the playoffs, but also lost Kobe Bryant for a minimum of six months to a torn Achilles tendon.
Nash’s presence was supposed to decrease Bryant's workload, but instead Bryant ended up second in the league in minutes played, first in shot attempts, and third overall in scoring.
Much of the Lakers success without Nash and Bryant can be attributed to Pau Gasol’s two triple-doubles in the last three games. Gasol has averaged 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists in April.
Veteran guard Steve Blake is another reason for the Lakers late surge. Starting in place of Nash, Blake has averaged 39.3 minutes per game. Over the last three games, Blake has found his offensive groove, collecting 20 points and five assists per contest.
Even with Blake’s re-emergence, L.A. will likely need Nash and his experience against Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s defensive schemes. In 49 career games against San Antonio, Nash has shot 41.9 percent from three-point range, to go along with 14 points and eight assists.