LeBron James is back, but it may take a few games for the Los Angeles Lakers to become fully operational.
James returned from the longest absence of his career on Friday, scoring 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting with eight rebounds, seven assists and five turnovers. Possibly the most important stat was his 31 minutes played, which was third-highest on the team.
James' contributions weren't enough for the Lakers to avoid a 110-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings, though. The Lakers had a chance to tie or win the game on a final possession with five seconds left, but a rushed 3-pointer from James clanked off the basket and into the Kings' hands for the win:
Seven different Kings finished in double-figures to hold off the Lakers, with rookie Tyrese Haliburton leading all scorers with 23 points.
It took nearly a quarter for James to score his first field goal, but he at least looked himself as he drove through the Kings defense.
James had been out since March 20 with a high ankle sprain, missing 20 games. That absence corresponded with a tumble down the standings for the Lakers, who were also missing Anthony Davis for most of the games. The team went 8-12 without James, falling from second in the Western Conference at the time of his injury to fifth.
With James and Davis now back, the Lakers' priority over the next three weeks will be staying healthy and trying to find a rhythm that had been silent for more than two months. The fight for seeding remains a factor though, as the Lakers sit just a half-game ahead of the sixth-place Dallas Mavericks and one game ahead of the seventh-place Portland Trail Blazers.
The NBA playoffs are scheduled to begin on May 22.
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