LeBron James had not seen the court in just over a month, missing 17 games since his December 25 groin injury suffered against the Golden State Warriors. The Los Angeles Lakers went 6-11 in his absence, sliding to to T-9th place in the Western Conference. But with the King back on the court, the Lakers were able to grind out a 123-120 over the Clippers as James finished just an assist shy of a triple double.

LeBron had just two points on 1-3 FG in the first quarter, but the Lakers led 32-26 anyway, behind 9 points from Brandon Ingram. Ingram picked up where he left off after a career-high 36 point outburst in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

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The Clippers cut the lead to 54-53 by halftime, with James scoring five points including a three. By the end of the third quarter, the Lakers opened up a comfortable 87-75 lead as James added three more bringing his total to 11 points along with 7 boards and 7 assists.

Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and the Clippers staged a comeback in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers held ahead. Lance Stephenson hit threes on back-to-back possessions to electrify a crowd that was scheduled to being cheering for the Clippers in their Staples Center home game.

The crowd erupted again, in the Clippers favor, when Tobias Harris hit a three to tie the game at 112.

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The teams traded brick three-point attempts, by Lance Stephenson and Avery Bradley, to give the Lakers another shot to win in regulation. James was stripped by Harris to prevent a game-winning shot. Lou Williams couldn’t hit a three point heave and the game went to overtime tied at 112. In regulation, James tallied 20 points, 7 assists, and 12 rebounds, along with 4 turnovers, in 35 minutes.

He continued to score and set up teammates in the overtime period. With the game tied at 118, he set up Javale McGee with an alley-oop lob pass but McGee couldn’t slam it home. On the next Lakers possession, James did it all himself, hitting a fadeaway to take a 120-118 lead.

The Lakers prevailed 123-120, as the Clippers couldn’t hit late to force a second overtime.

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James near-triple double performance was supported by Ingram (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and another near-triple double as Rajon Rondo had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists. LeBron totaled 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists in 40 minutes. The Lakers play next on Saturday against Golden State, but it’s reasonable to believe James could rest to not exert himself too much after an extended game.

Lou Williams led the Clippers with 24 points and 6 assists off the bench. Patrick Beverly led the starters with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

With the victory, the Lakers are just one game behind the Clippers for the 8th seed in the West. With James back on board, the Lakers hope to make a run in the standings.

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Header photo credit: Photo: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports


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