INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – LeBron James missed his chance to shine at Madison Square Garden this season. So, he picked up his teammates in his return yesterday at Indiana.
After drawing the first suspension of his career because of a fracas on Sunday in Detroit, James delivered tiebreaking and back-breaking three-pointers in overtime and finished with 39 points to help the Los Angles Lakers rally past Indiana, 124-116.
“I was excited about being in the lineup,” he said. “Me not playing last night on the second night of a back to back, I knew I could kind of give our guys a boost of energy with me not playing last night.”
James sat out on Wednesday in a loss at New York after striking Pistons centre Isaiah Stewart in the face and drawing blood last Sunday. James said he has not spoken with Stewart.
“I know he wanted to get this ‘W’,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He really wanted to play in that Knicks game, he looks forward to that every year. So to bounce back tonight, to quarterback the defence and carry the offence the way he did, that’s just a performance for the ages.”
James was 13 of 29 from the field and had six assists and five rebounds. And with All-Star centre Anthony Davis out because of flu-like defence, James also was in charge of calling the defensive assignments in a game the Lakers never led until Malik Monk’s three-pointer with 4:35 left in regulation.
But down the stretch, James was his usually dominant self as the Lakers won for the second time in six games.
“James is a great player, he got hot,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We needed to do some things to limit his touches. We did not and we paid the price.”
He bailed the Lakers out of a game that had all the trademarks of a pre-holiday contest at the end of a long trip – inconsistent play, sloppiness and at times bad basketball.
Yet James and Co found a way to finally clean it up and deliver the knockout blow.
He helped force overtime by scoring seven straight points to give the Lakers a 110-104 lead with 76 seconds left in regulation.
Russell Westbrook made two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 112-109 and only an off-balance three by Chris Duarte and James’ errant three as the buzzer prevented the Lakers from winning in regulation.
James didn’t give the Pacers a second chance in overtime.
His first three made it 117-114 with 2:51 left. A minute later, he made the second to extend the margin to six and added a mid-range jumper before Wayne Ellington closed it out. Indiana managed only one basket in the final three minutes.