- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers fans might have felt like they received an early Christmas present under the tree when Steve Nash returned from his left leg injury over the weekend, but Nash isn't feeling warm and fuzzy about his team's predicament.
"Hopefully, we can continue to win," Nash said after practice Monday on the eve of the Lakers' Christmas Day showdown with the New York Knicks. "We've won four in a row and we can keep this going and put ourselves back in contention, but we should be a desperate team right now."
The Lakers' last loss happened to come against the Knicks on Dec. 13 at Madison Square Garden, but they were missing Nash and also didn't have Pau Gasol in the lineup, as the four-time All-Star was in the midst of sitting eight games because of knee tendinitis.
Even with their season-high four-game winning streak, the Lakers are still just 13-14 and have just the 11th-best record in the Western Conference, putting a team with championship aspirations on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
"I think we realize the position we're in," Nash said. "We can't drop games. We got to go out there and try to win every single game and go for wins instead of trying to adjust and figure out what we're doing. You got to win games and figure it out afterwards what transition this team needs."
Nash's sense of urgency was in step with the message being spread by his longtime coach, Mike D'Antoni.
"We need it more and we should be a little bit more desperate," said D'Antoni, referring to his former team in the Knicks, who come into Tuesday's game at 20-7, good enough for the second-best record in the East.
Kobe Bryant, who will add to his own already established NBA record by playing in his 15th Christmas Day game -- more than any other player in league history -- said the only extra meaning the Knicks game brings is the chance to make it five wins in a row.
"It's special for us because we need to string some wins together," Bryant said. "We got to get going here."
Nash, who returned with an impressive 12 points, 9 assists and 2 steals in the Lakers' 118-115 overtime win against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, warned that he won't be the lone fix-all to get the Lakers back on track.
"I think this is a team that's got to do it together," Nash said. "I think that's really the Achilles' heel is this roster, with all this talent: everyone trying to make a linear calculation of how good we should be, and the point is we're not going to be the sum of our parts or more than the sum of our parts unless we do it together. So, we've all got to figure this out together. We've got to sacrifice and we've got to earn it every day."
The Lakers follow up the Knicks game with the second night of a back-to-back on the road against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Denver will be in a similar situation, however, as the Nuggets play the Los Angeles Clippers in L.A. on Christmas Day after the Lakers-Knicks game.
The schedule continues to work in the Lakers' favor after the Nuggets game, as they return to Staples Center to play four games in a row – three home games against Portland, Philadelphia and Denver with one "road" game against the Clippers mixed in that stretch.
"Everyone deals with things differently," Nash said of the challenge that the Lakers face to continue to improve. "Some people embrace that. Some people feel pressure and like it. Some people react the other way. I think for our team, we got to embrace it, enjoy it, and we got to realize we're going to be under a microscope and it's going to be fun. We got to embrace that challenge and try to play as best we can, get as many wins as we can and enjoy them afterward."
3hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann