Los Angeles superstar, LeBron James, scored 23 points in his return from an eight-game injury absence but the Boston Celtics spoiled the Lakers’ welcome back party with a dominant 130-108 NBA victory.
James made 10 of 16 attempts, including three of seven from the three-point range.
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He pulled down six rebounds and handed out two assists in his first game since suffering an abdominal strain in a victory over the Houston Rockets on November 2.
James used his jump shot, rarely driving through Boston’s defence.
He had just one free-throw attempt and missed it, just the 23rd time in 1,317 career contests that he failed to make a foul shot in a game.
The Celtics, meanwhile, finished with 56 points in the paint.
They trailed by 14 early, but out-scored the Lakers 33-21 in the third quarter to take an 11-point lead into the final period.
The fourth quarter also belonged to Boston, who out-scored the Lakers 37-26 in the final period as they rolled to victory.
“They turned it up a notch and we didn’t,” said Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, who scored 12 points.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 37 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Marcus Smart added 22 points and former Laker Dennis Schroder added 21.
Anthony Davis paced the Lakers with 31 points. He said he thought James “looked like his old self” but said the team would inevitably need to make adjustments after playing without him for two weeks.
James said there was work to do after yet another dismal third quarter performance from the Lakers.
But, he added: “There’s no level of panic.
“There should be a sense of urgency anytime we hit the floor.
“We have to figure out how we can keep that sense of urgency as close to 48 minutes as possible.”
James said physically he “felt OK.
“I’m more looking forward to seeing how I feel tomorrow when I wake up.
“That is the tell-tale sign if I’m going in the right direction with my injury,” he said.
Short-handed Warriors win
In Detroit, Golden State’s Jordan Poole stepped up with superstar Stephen Curry sitting out, scoring a season-high 32 points to propel the league-leading Warriors to a 105-102 victory over the Pistons.
Andrew Wiggins added 27 points and Nemanja Bjelica added 14 off the bench for Golden State, who were without Curry a day after he scored 40 points despite a sore hip in a 104-89 victory over the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
The Warriors were also missing Draymond Green – nursing a bruised thigh in the wake of the game in Cleveland – Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr because of injuries, but still improved their NBA-best record to 14-2.
Poole and Wiggins combined for 14 early points as the Warriors grabbed a 17-4 early lead.
The Pistons narrowed the gap, but when Poole returned from a spell of rest on the bench the Warriors went on a 16-6 run to regain control.
Poole had 22 points in the first half to help the Warriors take a 56-51 lead at the interval.
Golden State never trailed in the second half, pushing their lead to as many as 16 points.
The Phoenix Suns, fueled by 19 points from both Mikal Bridges and Devin Booker, rallied to beat the Dallas Mavericks 112-104 and stretch their winning streak to 11 games.
Dallas, playing without injured Luka Doncic, led 84-79 heading into the fourth quarter, but a 10-2 scoring run put Phoenix ahead for good with 9:27 left to play.
No Kevin Durant, no problem
The short-handed Brooklyn Nets, with Kevin Durant sidelined by a sprained right shoulder, eked out a 115-113 victory over the Orlando Magic.
James Harden led the Nets despite connecting on just seven of 15 shots from the field – three of 13 from beyond the arc.
Harden made 19 of 20 free throws as the Nets rallied from an early 19-point deficit.
Brooklyn outscored the Magic 37-21 in the third quarter to take a 90-83 lead.
The Magic clawed back to lead by two early in the fourth, but a three-point play by LaMarcus Aldridge put the Nets back in front for good with 6:25 remaining. (AFP)