LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have capitalized on a favorable schedule in an effort to begin turning around a rough start.
A visit to Oakland should begin to make things a bit more difficult.
Bryant will try to lift the Lakers to a season-high fourth straight win Saturday night when they face the surging Golden State Warriors, one of the NBA’s biggest surprises so far.
Bryant leads the league with 29.5 points per game, but Los Angeles (12-14) has struggled to take advantage of his staggering production.
Steve Nash will try to keep the winning streak alive as he makes his return from a leg injury. He will start.
The Lakers were 1-11 when he’d scored at least 30 points until recently, but the 14-time All-Star has reached that mark in each of the last three games – all wins. However, they’ve all come against teams with losing records, including league-worst Washington in a 102-96 victory Dec. 14.
Los Angeles exploited another struggling opponent Tuesday, when Bryant scored 30 points in a 101-100 win over Charlotte – which hasn’t won since beating the Wizards on Nov. 24.
“We’re playing much better,” said Bryant, who needs one more 30-point game to be the fifth player in league history to amass 400. “The last three games, we’ve been playing much better. We’re moving the ball a lot better and playing with a lot better energy.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Now, things are starting to stabilize a little bit for us.”
Things are also going to get tougher against the Warriors (18-9), winners of eight of 10, before Los Angeles returns home to face Atlantic Division-leading New York on Christmas Day. The Lakers fell 116-107 to the Knicks on Dec. 13 in their last loss.
Having Pau Gasol and Steve Nash fully healthy should give them a much better chance of extending this run.
Gasol returned against the Bobcats after an eight-game absence due to knee tendinitis, scoring 10 points with nine rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
Nash was originally targeting Saturday to play for the first time since Halloween, but it’s more likely that he’ll return from a non-displaced fracture in his leg on Christmas.
Getting Nash back will certainly put Mike D’Antoni in the holiday spirit.
“Whatever day he returns will be Christmas,” said D’Antoni, who is 7-9 since replacing the fired Mike Brown.
The Lakers have won 17 of the past 18 games with Golden State, including an 8-1 record at Oracle Arena.
Bryant has averaged 33.3 points in the past six meetings, and he had 27 with nine rebounds and seven assists Nov. 9 in a 101-77 romp as Los Angeles beat the Warriors for the fifth straight time.
Gasol had 14 points and 16 boards in that meeting, and has averaged 23.2 and 11.8 over his last 18 games against Golden State.
He figures to have his hands full battling David Lee, who is averaging 24.1 points and 11.8 rebounds over the past 11 games.
“You can pencil in 20 and 10, and then sprinkle in some other stuff around the tree,” coach Mark Jackson said. “He’s been that good all year long.”
Lee’s versatility produced his third triple-double Friday, as he had 23 points, 11 boards and 11 assists to power a 115-100 win over Charlotte.
Stephen Curry scored 27 points while connecting on 8 of 13 from beyond the arc after putting up a season-high 32 in a 131-127 loss at Sacramento two days earlier.
Curry had 18 points against the Lakers last month, while Lee was held to 10 and 12 rebounds.