LeBron James looked a bit rusty upon his return to action after missing 17 games, but that didn't stop the "King" from taking hold of the court and playing 40 minutes in an overtime victory for the Los Angeles Lakers over the LA Clippers, 123-120, on Thursday night at Staples Center.
"I've never been injured before like that," James said after the game, referring to the injury being the lengthiest of his career by a great distance. "The most I've sat out was two weeks. And I broke my wrist when I was in high school. I was a junior."
James got off to a sloppy, slow start, only managing five points, missing five of his seven field goal attempts and turning the ball over three times in the first half. However, James only committed one turnover the remainder of the way and came within one assist of a triple-double.
"The first quarter was kind of a feel-out quarter to see how my groin would react," James said.
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James wrapped the night with 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in 40 minutes. Suffice to say, James was clearly not on a minutes restriction, but that didn't stop the superstar from sharing that he had not felt this tired and worn out in a while.
"I didn't come here to sit on the bench," James said. "I love clothes. I love suits, but I didn't come here to put on a suit. I came here to put on a jersey and shorts. That's what I came here to do -- lead a team."
James said he felt about 80 percent healthy.
Said James, "It felt good to be 80. But to be back on the floor and put on a Lakers' uniform--that's what it's all about."
For the Clippers, former Laker Lou Williams scored 24 points off the bench to lead the home team's scoring effort, with six other players scoring in double figures.
The Clippers rallied from down 14 points in the fourth quarter to force the overtime session. In fact, the Lakers led 111-103 with 3:17 remaining in the game before the Clippers outscored the Lakers 9-1 to force an extra five minutes of basketball.
In the overtime, the Lakers got off to the early lead but never looked secure in their lead. The visitors, however, managed to do just enough to win the game, though point guard Rajon Rondo made a curious play where he attempted to throw the ball off his defender's leg at the end of the overtime in an attempt to seemingly run out the clock.
The strategy drew some headscraches, but it did work. After the game, Lakers coach Luke Walton questioned his point guard's mental state on the play when asked about whether Rondo was hurt physically.
"I'm still questioning what he was doing on that last pass mentally, but physically he's fine I guess," Walton responded when asked about Rondo possibly limping at the end of the game.
Rondo managed to finish the night with 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in 36 minutes.
As had been the case when James was out, Lance Stephenson and Brandon Ingram stepped up to provide contributions and help the Lakers grab the win. Ingram finished the night with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Stephenson added 20 points off the bench.
James pointed to Stephenson, Ingram and Rondo as major contributors in the victory.
Next, the Lakers face the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Clippers travel to Detroit to face Blake Griffin and the Pistons on the same day.