LOS ANGELES (AFP) – LeBron James returned from a five-game injury absence with a triple-double on Saturday fueling the Los Angeles Lakers’ thrilling 122-115 come-from-behind overtime triumph over the New York Knicks.
James, who had been sidelined by swelling in his left knee, scored 29 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and handed out 10 assists as the Lakers authored their biggest comeback of the season after trailing by as many as 21 in the first half and by 15 at the interval.
“Feels good to be out there with my teammates, trying to put guys in position both offensively and defensively and giving what I’ve got,” James said.
“It was a great win for us,” added James, who watched the Lakers go 1-4 while he was out.
It was a sweet one, too, for a team that heard boos from Lakers fans rain down on Russell Westbrook after he clanked a shot off the rim in the first half amid the team’s struggles.
Center Anthony Davis scored 28 points and pulled down 17 rebounds and rising star Malik Monk was instrumental in the second-half turnaround with 25 of his 29 points coming after halftime.
“That third quarter was electrifying. He got hot,” James said of Monk’s 18-point outburst in the period. “We needed that.”
The Lakers took their first lead of the contest late in the third and went into the fourth with an 87-84 lead.
They pushed the advantage to as many as nine points, but RJ Barrett’s three-pointer with 8.1 seconds left knotted the score at 111-111 and James missed a three-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.
The Lakers dominated the extra session, James setting a tone with a thundering dunk after a steal by Talen Horton-Tucker for a 113-111 edge.
Julius Randle’s two baskets accounted for all four of the Knicks’ points in overtime.
Barrett led the Knicks with a career-high 36 points. Former Laker Randle scored 32 points with 16 rebounds and seven assists, but the Knicks fell to 12th in the East, outside the post-season play-in berths.
At ninth in the West, the Lakers are in play-in position and hoping they can improve to grab direct entry into the playoffs.
“It’s all about taking accountability for your own actions,” James said of what the erratic Lakers must do to improve. “If you want change, you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and demand more out of yourself.”
In other games, the league-leading Phoenix Suns bounced back from Thursday’s defeat in Atlanta that ended their 11-game winning streak with a 95-80 victory over the Wizards in Washington.
Deandre Ayton scored 20 points and pulled down 16 rebounds and Chris Paul scored 14 points and handed out nine assists for the Suns, who improved to 42-10 and moved two and a half games ahead of the Golden State Warriors for best record in the league.
Phoenix led by 27 points at halftime, allowing the Wizards just 11 points in the second quarter and 32 in the first half.
Ja Morant was the star of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 135-115 blowout over the Magic in Orlando.
Morant scored 22 points in the first half and sat out the fourth quarter with the Grizzlies well on their way to a fifth victory in six games.
Jaren Jackson Jr scored 21 points and Steven Adams contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis, who out-scored the Magic 68-34 in the paint.
Morant handed out seven assists, and his many highlights included a third-quarter behind-the-back pass to Ziaire Williams, who found De’Anthony Melton for a dunk that put the Grizzlies up by 31.
It was another lopsided result in Charlotte, where Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler scored 27 points and center Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 104-86 victory over the Hornets.
Adebayo also handed out three assists, came up with three steals and blocked two shots and the Heat produced a 35-8 scoring run in the third quarter to rally from a 51-46 halftime deficit.