LeBron James Returns To Los Angeles Lakers, Nearly Has Triple-Double In Win Vs. Clippers [VIDEO]
The Lakers were 20-14, had beaten the scariest dynasty in recent history, and were just 2.5 games out of the first seed. But LeBron James went down with a groin injury midway through the game and so did the team’s chances of making the playoffs. Its young core did little to keep the ship afloat, as the team went 6-11 and fell to 10.5 games behind the first seed. They were on the outside of the playoff bubble and some wondered if LeBron’s longest absence of his career was a move to boost the trade value of the young core four in order to acquire New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis.
But AD is still withering away in NOLA and the pressure grew too strong for James to remain out. He came out of the gate rusty and definitely looked like a 34-year-old coming off a 37-day absence. Normally a player at his age with his injury wouldn’t play 40 minutes, but Lakers coach Luke Walton seems to have realized this season — and by extension his job — are at stake. James contributed 24 points, nine assists, and 14 rebounds. He also stayed on the perimeter for much of the game, shooting six three-pointers but draining only one. Overall, he went an atrocious 9-for-22 from the field. Lance Stephenson kicked in 20 points and Brandon Ingram scored 19 points and added four rebounds and four assists.
But that wasn’t enough to get the Lakers an easy win. Tobias Harris nailed a wide-open 3 with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter. James, who only had to get a single basket, tried to dribble the lane. Harris locked him down and forced him out of bounds, thus sending the game to overtime. LeBron was back to being LeBron in OT. He carried the team to a 123-120 win that’s more dominant than the score reads.
He’ll next take on the Warriors in a rematch of Christmas day in Oakland.
“I’ll gain my rhythm as the season continues to go, but like I said, I’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” James said after the game. “That’s gonna be the telltale sign of all the rehab and the work and everything I’ve been putting in these last five weeks.”