- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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PHOENIX -- Thomas Wolfe said it, and Steve Nash has now lived it.
"You can't go home again."
Boy, was that ever true for Nash, the former two-time league MVP with the Phoenix Suns, who returned to his former city twice this season and came up empty both times.
The last time the Los Angeles Lakers came to Phoenix, Nash's initial return was spoiled by a 92-86 loss in a game in which L.A. blew a late lead and Nash had just 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Nash struggled in this one, too, scoring 19 points but shooting just six-for-17 in the process and dishing out just four assists against three turnovers.
It wasn't any better for his teammates.
Here's a recap of what went down:
How it happened: It was a two-man game for L.A. early as Nash and Dwight Howard combined for 21 of the Lakers' 25 first-quarter points, but the Lakers only led by four. Suns rookie Kendall Marshall caught fire in the second quarter, scoring eight points, as the Suns led by as many as eight. But the Lakers were able to cut the deficit down to three at the half. The Suns' lead was five heading into the fourth when it all fall apart for the Lakers. The final blow came when Luis Scola beat the shot clock with a 3 from the top of the key to put Phoenix up by 17 with less than four minutes remaining.
What it means: After two inspiring team-centric wins against Indiana and Sacramento, the Lakers looked flat and sorely missed the energy that Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle) brings to the game. If you thought the playoffs were all but locked up, think again. Monday was a major reminder of the work that's still ahead for this Lakers team with 13 games left to play.
Hits: At least nobody was seriously injured. There's that. As Mike D'Antoni put it when asked about Bryant getting some rest while all the Lakers had to do was take care of the 23-45 Suns: "If we can win, it’s a silver lining because he rests and gets his body in shape, but if we don’t win, then it’s not very good. So, it’s a double-edged sword."
Misses: Howard missed 12 of 18 shots, Nash missed 11 of 17 and Metta World Peace missed 12 of 17.
The Lakers were outrebounded 55-45.
Stat of the game: Steve Blake (6-for-11) was the only Laker to shoot 50 percent or better from the field. L.A. shot just 29-for-87 (33.3 percent) as a team.
What's next: The Lakers, mercifully, have the day off Tuesday coming out of their back-to-back and don't play again until Friday, when they host the Washington Wizards. D'Antoni said Bryant would "probably" be back in the lineup by then, and there is a chance that Pau Gasol will also target that game to make his return from the torn plantar fascia injury to his right foot that's kept him out the past six weeks.
2dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne