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Lakers' latest home loss hits a nerve

Steve Nash leaves early in Utah's 96-79 victory, the sixth defeat in a row for Lakers at Staples Center.

February 11, 2014|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Utah's Enes Kanter holds the ball as Steve Blake reaches in during the second half of the Lakers' loss Tuesday to the Jazz, 96-79, at Staples Center.
Utah's Enes Kanter holds the ball as Steve Blake reaches in during… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Home bitter home.

The Lakers used to consider Staples Center a haven of victories, a bedrock of five championship runs since the building opened in 1999.

Now they might as well play at a local park.

They lost to the lowly Utah Jazz on Tuesday, 96-79, falling to 8-15 at home and losing six consecutive games at home for the first time since 1992-93.

BOX SCORE: Utah 96, Lakers 79

It's the cherry on top of several scoops of problems.

Steve Nash left the game for good at halftime, felled again by the same nerve irritation in his back that sidelined him almost three months.

The nerve damage starts in the back and presents itself in his hamstring, making it feel as if it's strained or pulled.

Whatever euphoria he felt last Friday — 19 points and five assists against Philadelphia on his 40th birthday — was almost absent after Tuesday's game, though he tried to be upbeat.

"I think I need a little more time to get over the hump," he told The Times.

He considered sitting out before tipoff but knew the Lakers were short-handed without six injured players.

Nash didn't look quite right while he played, totaling two points and two assists in 17 minutes. He made one of four shots in his 10th game this season.

The Lakers are shrugging. They don't know exactly what to do.

"I imagine it's day to day. I don't know anything else," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said of Nash's status. "I haven't really talked to him."

Nash's injury dented some mild excitement the Lakers felt before the game. They were expecting five of their six injured players back shortly after this weekend's All-Star break.

The lone lingering one, though, was Kobe Bryant, who might be the last Lakers player to return, according to a person familiar with the situation.

He continues to have swelling and pain in his fractured left knee and figures to trail Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks and maybe even Xavier Henry in getting back to the court.

Bryant initially sustained the injury Dec. 17 against Memphis and had played only six games this season, missing the first 19 while recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon. He is under contract for two more seasons and $48.5 million.

Henry could also have his timetable extended while working through a bone bruise in his knee and a cartilage injury that might take longer to heal.

As for Tuesday's game, Chris Kaman supporters finally got their wish. He started at center and had 25 points and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes.

He complained about lack of minutes a few times this season and was backed by a surprisingly vocal group of Lakers fans on email and Twitter.

He thanked them in his own way after the game, cognizant of the team's struggles.

"Especially with such a great franchise like the Lakers, and the longevity they've had with winning and championships, I think it's tough to swallow for a lot of people, especially the owners and especially the fans who are coming out watching us and supporting us," he said. "It's going to get better. No one planned on these injuries, no one can anticipate that kind of stuff. It just happens."

Kaman's play over the next few games is important for two reasons.

The Lakers need his offense until Gasol returns from a strained groin. And they might trade Kaman before the Feb. 20 deadline if they can't find a taker for Gasol.

Kaman, who makes $3.2million, was aggressive on offense, taking 10 shots in the first nine minutes. He wasn't very accurate, making only 11 of 24 overall.

The Lakers led by 15 in the first quarter but were outscored in the second quarter, 32-10, and again in the fourth quarter, 28-19.

Somehow it wasn't surprising that Utah had one of the NBA's worst road records (6-19) before Tuesday.

It's not that difficult to predict what will happen when the Lakers play Oklahoma City on Thursday. Especially because it's at Staples Center.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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