Pau Gasol and Steve Nash Keeping LA Lakers Alive in Kobe’s Absence

HOUSTON – The spotlight didn’t shine on Steve Nash and Pau Gasol on Thursday night.

Hard work and victorious glory are the perfect couple, even if they aren’t often seen together at the same time. So Nash and Gasol only did the dirty work on the last basket of the game, setting the combined screen that freed Steve Blake to run free and make the hero shot before Dwight Howard could get out to block it.

“The Blake Mamba” got the glory for this night, the Lakers’ first road victory without the injured Kobe Bryant.

An elated Blake spoke into the microphone afterward and said: “I’ve never quite made a shot like that.”

Sitting with a collared shirt on for postgame interviews but otherwise in his underwear with a green towel on his lap and those old feet sitting in a bucket of ice water, Nash gripped a celebratory Miller Lite in front of his locker.

Gasol, not yet over an infection that had him stopping practice the day before to spit phlegm into a trash can at the edge of the court, lingered in a hot shower long after most teammates were dressed and out the door.

And there was poetry in their sacrifice with that last dual screen set to benefit Blake, because it was just the sort of dirty work that Howard wouldn’t do last season for a Lakers team that Nash and Gasol tried in vain to sacrifice for and help win.

Holding a two-point lead, Howard was left confused for precious seconds by what Nash and Gasol did, even though Kevin McHale had just said in the huddle that the “one thing” the Rockets were supposed do was “to switch everything out.”

“We were switching 1 through 5 at that point,” McHale told reporters later.

Nash was supposed to take the last shot; it was his prerogative based on what Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni drew up. And given how man...

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