LOS ANGELES -- Steve Nash woke up Tuesday morning and was stiff. At 40, he willed himself through shootaround. Afterward, he acknowledged that he goes into each game with a fundamental understanding that each one could be his last, a reality only enhanced by his ongoing struggles with nerve issues stemming from a broken leg.
"Some days (are bad)," Nash said, "but other days you're feeling great and you have a good session or a good game and you feel like it's all worth it."
Another day in Nash's ongoing quest to be able to extend his career suffered another setback on Tuesday as the Lakers lost, 96-79, to the Utah Jazz.
After starting and playing 17 first half minutes, Nash failed to come out of the locker room after halftime, plagued yet again by nerve irritation. The injury flared up two nights earlier in a loss to Chicago when Nash was hit in the leg.
"I'm pretty concerned right now," said Steve Blake. "He's dealing with a lot of pain. I see how hard he has to work just to get himself ready for the few minutes he has been playing. And then he has to go out again."
Combined with the foreboding exit of Nash, Tuesday's loss might have been the most disheartening of the season. The Jazz entered the game a half-game behind L.A. and half a game ahead of Sacramento for last place in the Western Conference and ran away with the game, handing the Lakers their sixth straight home loss, tying a franchise record.
Chris Kaman led the Lakers with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but the Lakers couldn't overcome their big-picture problems. The four leading scorers are injured and the team has fallen into a slump where it can't score.
"Collectively we don't have exactly what we need at the same time all the time," said Kaman, who was 11 of 24 from the field "We'll have spurts where it's nice and we'll play well.The whole game's a struggle."
In the first half Tuesday the Lakers took a 25-11 lead after going on a 19-0 run. However, they were outscored 32-10 in the second quarter and trailed 48-37 at halftime. Without Nash in the second half things only got worse, as the Lakers couldn't contain Jazz sixth man Alec Burks, who scored 13 of his 24 points in the second half.
"I just don't think we scored enough," Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "The second quarter killed us. We started off great shooting the ball, then we hit a period where we couldn't hit shots, and it continued the rest of the game."
The Lakers shot just 38.8 percent from the field and made just 4 of 16 3-point attempts.
With one game remaining before All-Star weekend, the Lakers are just trying to get to the break, after which they expect to get several players back from injury, including Jodie Meeks and Jordan Farmar.
Included in the group of players whose status is not concrete is Nash.
"You've got to give him credit just for coming out and participating by any means," center Robert Sacre said. "That means a lot, coming out and really trying to play his butt off.
"I know he's frustrated for the fact his body just isn't there like it used to be, and I give him credit just for trying."
A week ago, Shawne Williams was in the Development League. On Friday, he returned to the Lakers. On Tuesday, however, Williams asserted himself in a way he rarely did in his first stint with the Lakers, finishing with 11 points and 6 rebounds in 37 minutes.
Playing on a 10-day contract, Williams started at power forward, and made his first two 3-point attempts, and shot 4-of-8 overall from the field.
It was encouraging, given what D'Antoni asked of one of his favorite players before the game.
"I'd like for him to make more shots," D'Antoni said. "He would, too. That's his calling card. If he's going to stick in the league, that's what he has to do. He has to become a knock-down shooter."
Originally signed by the Lakers to a non-guaranteed contract in the offseason, Williams was waived in early January before his contract became fully guaranteed. In 34 games before Tuesday, including 11 starts, Williams shot just 31 percent on 3-pointers, averaging 5.2 points per game.
Williams contract will expire on Sunday, his 28th birthday, after which point the Lakers will either sign him to a second 10-day deal or hold off, possibly to preserve the roster spot in advance of the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
"I'm prepared for anything," Williams said.
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