Lakers point guard Steve Nash tries cut off a drive by Spurs point guard Tony… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
SAN ANTONIO — Steve Nash stared at an unknown point way up high inside AT&T Center, shaking his head and muttering to himself as he went to the sideline for a timeout.
Two minutes had barely passed in the third quarter of the Lakers' playoff opener Sunday. He was three for 10 at the time against the San Antonio Spurs and looked every bit like a 39-year-old coming back from a three-week layoff.
"I'm not myself," Nash said. "I'm not moving that well. I'm struggling a little bit. I probably had a few shots in there that I probably normally make, but I still think it's important to try and contribute. We don't have enough points in our lineup every night."
Nash finished with 16 points on six-for-15 shooting in the Lakers' 91-79 loss.
He scored the first two points of the game and had four in the first five minutes, but there were more misses than makes in his return from a complicated injury. He needed epidural shots in his back last week to help a nerve issue that caused a sore hip and pain and weakness in his hamstring.
He hadn't played since March 30, and that was only two minutes of action before he left a game in Sacramento. The game before that, he left in the third quarter against Milwaukee and never returned.
It was apparent Nash was not Nash early in the third quarter Sunday.
He missed badly on an open 10-foot floater from the left side. Then he was way off on a reverse layup attempt, something he normally converts with ease.
"There's no miracle pill at this point. I can't go home and say I'm not 75-80% so I'm not going to play," said Nash, who had three assists in 29 minutes. "I've got to try to fight and figure out a way to just help."
Another injured veteran
The Lakers knew about Manu Ginobili's scoring touch. They were hoping the 35-year-old who has suffered right hamstring pain this season would not be his old self.
But in a 10-point streak during the third quarter, including an eight-point burst that turned a 62-55 Spurs' lead into a 70-57 advantage late in the period, Ginobili declared he would be a big factor in this series.
"It's impossible not to be reenergized," for the playoffs, Ginobili said after playing in 60 regular-season games. "We were playing at home against the Lakers. It's a great moment to be energetic."
Ginobili finished with 18 points and even added two steals to the Lakers' 18-turnover afternoon.
"The third quarter … used to be my moment," he said. "I know I'm not in my best shape, physically and basketball-wise, but I thought I had a little window there to try and risk. And it went good."
Ginobili buried a three-pointer with 2.4 seconds left in the third to send his home crowd into a frenzy. The Lakers were never closer than nine points after that shot.
"That's the way I play," he said. "I seek my moment."
Ginobili said he would appreciate the two-plus days off to recover, receiving treatments, aspiring to play as much as 25 minutes in a game after playing almost 19 on Sunday.
"Now is the time to adjust," he said. "They'll be adjusting. It's going to be like a chess game."