After a five-game absence due to swelling in his left knee, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James returned to the team’s active lineup against the New York Knicks on Saturday night. His status was in question heading into the evening, but James went through a warmup prior to the contest and determined that he felt good to go. His play was a big part of the reason that the Lakers were able to pull out a 122-115 overtime victory.
James showed few, if any, signs of rust despite the fact that he missed well over a week of action. He played 40 minutes in the contest, and tallied his 103rd career triple-double with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. With his production, James extended his streak of 25-plus point performances to 19.
The Lakers were down by as many as 21 points at one point in the game, but they were able to mount a comeback — their biggest of the season. James’ return was a major factor in the win, but he also got his fair share of help in the game. Anthony Davis turned in another solid performance with 28 points and 17 rebounds, and Malik Monk dropped 29 points of his own, including several big buckets down the stretch.
R.J. Barrett led the Knicks with 36 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Julius Randle added 32 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists for New York. Ultimately though, their combined production wasn’t enough to lift the Knicks to what would have been a much-needed win.
“After the first quarter, the knee loosened up a lot more,” James said after the game, via ESPN. “My mind loosened up a lot more. And I was just able to play basketball. But just excited to be back in the uniform, back on the floor with my guys. Missed them, missed the game. I was happy I was able to make a few plays and help us win a ballgame.”
James’ return is obviously good news for a Lakers team that is substantially better when he is out on the floor. The Lakers lost four out of five games during James’ recent absence, and they dropped down to ninth in the Western Conference standings as a result — probably not where they thought they’d be at this point in the season.
James has been hampered by injury issues this season, but when he’s been out on the floor he’s been fantastic. On the season, he’s averaging 29.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 36.7 minutes per performance. His points per game average is the highest it’s been since the 2009-10 season.
Now that James is back, and Davis is also healthy, perhaps the Lakers will begin to ascend in the standings over the back end of the season. The win over the Knicks was a solid start.