The Lakers won the battle, but may have lost the war.
LeBron James was injured in the third quarter, and did not return, but the Los Angeles Lakers held on to defeat the Golden State Warriors, 127-101, on Christmas Day at Oracle Arena.
James had 17 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists when he appeared to injure his groin, reaching for a loose ball midway through the third quarter.
"I was dribbling down the court and Draymond got his hand on the ball, and I went to get the loose ball and just overextended my groin," James told reporters of the play that injured him. "I felt it coming down the court, and I actually overextended it again on defense. It was just an unfortunate play."
After a timeout, James told Lakers head athletic trainer, Marco Nunez, that he "heard a pop" in his groin, and immediately went to the locker room. James was diagnosed with a strained left groin and did not return to the game.
"I felt a pop, and saw if I could stretch it a few times and see if it would relieve, but it didn't," said James. "It's pretty rare for me to have an injury period. It happens."
The Lakers were up by 14 points when James was injured, and the Warriors immediately went on an 11-0 run, cutting the lead to 78-76 with 2:48 left in the quarter.
"I've played the Warriors long enough to know that they're going to make a run," said James. "They're going to make a run and you have to be able to punch back and we did that."
Without their superstar on the floor, the Lakers rallied, taking the Warriors best punch and fighting back, extending the lead to nine by the end of the fourth quarter.
"They took that punch really well," Warriors' forward Kevin Durant said following the loss. "Kuz [Kuzma] got them to the free throw line and they salvaged it a little bit, and they kept us at bay. They took that punch and just kept it moving."
Rajon Rondo took over as the team's floor general in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers kept their foot on the gas, leading by as many as 31 points, before the Warriors waved the white flag and emptied their bench.
"The group as a whole did a good job fighting back, but I thought Rondo and Lance Stephenson came into the game and gave us a big lift," Lakers head coach Luke Walton said to a group of reporters immediately after the game.
James did not return to the court, and instead watched the remainder of the game from a trainer's table in the Lakers locker room. He was pleased with what he saw from his teammates in the fourth quarter and also attributed a lot of it to Rondo.
"Rondo was gigantic in controlling the pace, getting to his spots or finding guys, and once again 'Big Zu' [Zubac] was huge for us on both sides of the court," said James.
Andre Igoudala had a team-high 23 points off the bench to lead Golden State. Durant, playing on an injured left ankle, had 21 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Stephen Curry had 15 points, and Klay Thompson chipped in just five points.
The "Fantastic Four" of Durant, Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, combined to shoot 14-for44 (31 percent) from the field in the loss.
"We've definitely been inconsistent with our play," said Durant. "We can definitely be better. They had a great game plan tonight. I thought we had a lot of great shots, we just didn't knock them down and it snowballed from there."
In LeBron's absence, Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with a team-high 19 points. Ivica Zubac had another season-high with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and shot 9-of-10 (90 percent) from the field.
"He was huge tonight, but he's been good in all three games he's started for us," Walton said of Zubac.
Seven different Lakers scored in double-figures with Brandon Ingram scoring 14 points, Rajon Rondo adding 15 points and 10 assists, Josh Hart had 12, and Lance Stephenson scored 11 points off the bench.
"Obviously the narrative is LeBron and the Lakers," Hart told Spectrum SportsNet after the game. "We hope he's okay, but we've got a lot of good players…if he's down, its next man up. None of us are scared of the spotlight."
The Lakers snapped an 11-game losing streak at Oracle Arena, with their last victory on the Warriors' home floor occurring on Dec. 22, 2012. The win also snapped a seven-game skid overall with the Lakers beating the Warriors at Staples Center on March 6, 2016.
Notes and Next
Lakers center JaVale McGee missed his fifth consecutive game with a respitory infection and did not travel with the team. He was expected to get his 2017-2018 NBA Championship ring, but that ceremony will be delayed until the next time Los Angeles plays the Warriors.
Tyson Chandler returned to the court after missing the last game with back spasms. The Lakers will travel to Sacramento for the first of a back-to-back on Thursday night against the Kings.