LeBron James marked his return from injury by contributing 24 points as the Los Angeles Lakers secured a 123-120 overtime victory over city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
Four-time MVP James had missed the Lakers’ last 17 games due to a groin injury he picked up in their Christmas Day victory over the Golden State Warriors, but he showed no signs of rustiness as he helped his team move back to within touching distance of the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference.
The 34-year-old finished the match as not only the Lakers top scorer, but he also contributed the most assists and rebounds, although he feels he is not yet back up to full speed, which could be ominous for his upcoming opponents.
“I’m about 80 (per cent) right now,” James told Spectrum SportsNet. “But I was good enough to, and feel confident to be able to just keep pushing throughout the game. “The first quarter for me was kind of a feel-out.
I haven’t been out there since December 25. Second quarter, I kind of ramped it up a little bit more, and then for the rest of the game.
“It’s going to take me a little while to get my rhythm back.”
James is expected to continue his comeback when the Lakers travel to the Oracle Arena, the venue where he picked up his injury, to take on defending NBA champions Golden State on Saturday.
A victory in that match would further underline the Lakers’ chances of making the playoffs and they are priced at 13.00 to go on and claim what would be a first Western Conference title since 2010 this season.