Who says you can't go home?
LeBron James scored 32 points in his return to Cleveland, as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from behind to defeat the Cavaliers, 109-105, on Wednesday night at Quickens Arena.
James was welcomed back to "The Land" as a hero, receiving a standing ovation during pregame introductions, and when he first touched the ball after tipoff.
"We recognize the fact that certainly this is a big night for the city of Cleveland," said Cavaliers head coach Larry Drew, "Because a hero has come back."
The Cavs also paid tribute to their King with an emotional video during a timeout in the first quarter.
"It was crazy. Especially when he first came out," said Lakers poing guard Lonzo Ball who scored 15 points with 7 rebounds and six assists. "The energy in the building was crazy. The video was great. I'm sure he was glad to be back home."
However, after the game tipped off, James was the enemy, and the lowly Cavaliers fed off the energy of the crowd, and played inspired basketball in what was arguably their best performance of the season so far.
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Cleveland did not commit a single turnover in the first half, and led by as many as 11 in the second quarter.
"I didn't feel like we had enough energy," said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. "We only forced three turnovers, and zero in the first half. That's not who we are. They had 20 more possessions than we did."
After a 10-0 run put them in front by nine late in the fourth quarter, James and the Lakers rallied, and roared back into the lead thanks to some late free throws.
"I'm happy how and proud how we fought in the fourth quarter," continued Walton. "Where we had been blowing leads prior, we came back. We got stops when we needed and got out and ran with a small group."
The Cavs had a chance to tie late, but Kyle Korver missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 17 seconds left and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made four free throws in the final 15 to seal it for Los Angeles.
"We got Tristan Thompson off the offensive glass down the stretch," said Caldwell-Pope about the difference in the final few minutes. "They got me open on out of bounds plays. I want to take those shots. I'm shooting 94 percent from the free-throw line for a reason."
But the night was all about James, as he finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in his first game back in his hometown since signing with the Lakers in free agency.
So on the night before Thanksgiving, Cleveland said thanks to the Northeast Ohio son, the one who ended the city's 52-year championship drought in 2016.
"To come here tonight and go out and hear the fans reception," said James after the game. "In my 11 years playing here, I just tired to be the best basketball player, the best role model, the best leader I could be on and off the floor, and lead by example and they showed their appreciation. It was a great moment."
Former Laker, Jordan Clarkson, led the Cavaliers with 20 points, Cedi Osman had 18, and rookie Collin Sexton finished with 12 for Cleveland who fell to 2-13 on the season.
Lakers: Coach Luke Walton is impressed with James' knack for blocking out external distractions. "The great ones have that ability," he said. "When they're on the basketball court nothing else matters, other than what they're trying to do. Their focus level seems to somehow get higher with the louder the noise gets. I don't know how. I don't know why."
Cavaliers: Did not commit a turnover in the first half. ... Starting G George Hill missed his sixth straight game with a sprained right shoulder sustained on Nov. 4. Hill has ramped up his on-court workouts in recent days and could be back soon. ... Drew said he was unaware of Smith's comments accusing the Cavs of "tanking." Drew believes his team is playing hard, and promised to nothing but coach his team to win. "To coach to lose, I don't understand that, I don't know how to do that," he said. "I don't know how anybody can do that. That's something I would never, ever do."
Lakers: Host Utah on Friday.
Cavaliers: At Philadelphia on Friday.