Los Angeles, CA — Even with LeBron James at less than 100 percent, the Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t take advantage.
In James’ first game back since a December groin injury, he put up 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Lid Angeles Lakers (27-25) to a 123-120 overtime win over the Clippers (28-24).
James admitted he still had some rust to shake off.
“(I) Haven’t played an NBA game in over a month,” James said after the game. “Missed a couple layups that I’m accustomed to making and a couple turnovers that were out of character.”
While James’ return was the talk of the game, it was free throw shooting may have clipped the Clippers from a victory tonight. The Clippers shot a paltry 53.8 percent from the charity stripe, compared to 80 percent for the Lakers. Considering the small margin of defeat, that made a big difference.
“I haven’t looked at our free-throw shooting, I’m not kidding this year,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers mentioned in the postgame interview.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton touched on Lebron being the “most unselfish person I’ve ever been around, let alone a superstar being like that.”
One of the bigger plays in the game went to Lakers forward Lance Stephenson, who arguably should have gotten a flagrant foul called when he elbowed Clippers center Boban Marjanovic in the face while attempting a layup. They replayed it on the Jumbotron and everyone lost it because it looked painful. It was so intense that coach Rivers was drawing up a play for his team during the review.
Another highlight for the Lakers was Rajon Rondo’s 14 points and 13 rebounds. He surprisingly outrebounded his teammate Brandon Ingram, who finished with 19 points and 4 rebounds. During overtime, it was the defensive effort of JaVale McGee that proved crucial in the victory. He had two very clutch blocks and helped the team regain confidence.
For the Clippers, Lou Williams finished with 24 points while shooting 10-of-18 from the field. Behind him, Patrick Beverley was there leading on both sides of the court, making an impressive five 3-pointers.
Both teams showed tremendous heart towards the end and a couple of shoves went down, including Stephenson’s technical foul against Avery Bradley.
The Clippers will start their six-game East Coast road trip on Saturday, when they visit their old teammate Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons. For the Lakers, they will make a short trip up the I-5 to face the league-leading Golden State Warriors.