LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers are all about LeBron James, and it was clear that his team missed him when he was out injured.
The star forward returned from a five-game absence to score 21 points on Friday as the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 105-94 for their first road win of the National Basketball Association season.
James, who suffered a groin injury in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov 9, also pulled down eight rebounds and handed out five assists with three steals and a blocked shot in 33 minutes on the floor.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the four-time NBA champion looked “phenomenal” despite having just returned.
“He was moving great,” he added. “Obviously, there’s going to be some rust there... but I thought he looked great.”
On a busy night in the NBA after a day off for the US Thanksgiving holiday, hosts Milwaukee (13-5) rallied for a 117-102 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-7) in a battle for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 38 points to take the Bucks past the Cavaliers, who led by 16 in the first half but were outscored 35-10 in the third quarter.
The Boston Celtics, led by 30 points from Jayson Tatum, swept aside the red-hot Sacramento Kings 122-104 to improve their league-leading record to 15-4.
The hosts survived a sloppy third quarter to down the Kings, whose eight wins in November included a seven-game streak that ended with a loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
In San Antonio, all eyes were on James, who is on track – if he stays healthy – to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer (38,387 points) as early as February. The Lakers star has 37,332 points.
He scored the first basket of the contest as the Lakers quickly powered to a double-digit lead.
They led 59-41 at half-time but the young Spurs team had sliced the deficit to 81-78 by early in the fourth. The Lakers responded, James’ dunk taking the lead back to 10 points.
“I felt good,” he said. “I’ve been non-stop around the clock (getting treatment) for the last couple of weeks to get back on the floor... I’ll be a lot better as the games go on.”
Anthony Davis scored 11 of his 25 points in the final period, finishing with a double-double that also included 15 rebounds.
“James was a real force for his first game back after missing five, especially down the stretch,” he said.
Lakers guard Lonnie Walker IV, who had 18 points, said: “When you have someone that can close it night in and night out, puts ease in the heart for everyone else. James certainly turned it up to a whole another level.”
The Phoenix Suns (12-6) maintained their slim lead in the Western Conference with a 108-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Deandre Ayton scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Devin Booker added 21 points in the Suns’ third straight victory.
Reigning champions Golden State Warriors rode a hot start to a 129-118 victory over the Utah Jazz, improving to 10-10 in what has been a rocky season so far. AFP