LeBron James played 40 minutes in a LA Lakers OT victory over the Clippers, beating their crosstown rivals 123-120. James had 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists. Lou Williams led the Clippers from the bench, scoring 24 points to go with 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
James missed 17 games for the Lakers since injuring his groin in a Christmas Day game against the Warriors. The injury was originally announced to be a day-to-day problem, but has kept LeBron out for over a month. The Lakers went 6-11 without LeBron, and fell out of the playoff spots in the Western Conference.
LeBron wasn’t the only one coming back from injury, as Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was able to play 23 minutes in his return from a hip injury that kept him sidelined for the previous two games. Kuzma was off is usual pace, only dropping 10 points on 4-8 shooting. Both LeBron and Kuzma seemed passive, possibly an effect of the nagging injuries each player are recovering from. Both players are listed as day-to-day.
Even in the midst of the trade rumors, the Lakers need to keep their heads down and win ball games. By now, LeBron knows that this Lakers team is incapable to win this year. LeBron has been rumored to favor a coaching change, as well as desiring to bring in 2-3 high level players to LA by deadline day. The Lakers are now just one game back from the Clippers for the 8th seed in the west, but have a very challenging set of games on the horizon. The Lakers will play the Warriors, Pacers, Celtics, and 76ers, all teams that are going to be playoff bound at the end of the season. With LeBron and Kuzma back, the Lakers will get an early litmus test that will tell just how competitive these Lakers can be this year.