Basketball

LeBron James’ Return to the Lakers Was Great

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LeBron James’ return to action didn’t disappoint at all as the Lakers won their final two games. James’ returned to the line-up ahead of the Lakers games against the Indiana Pacers and the New Orleans Pelicans.

His return to the team was needed ahead of the Play-In tournament because not only did the Lakers have a chance of getting the sixth seed, but they also needed to have more games playing their starting five altogether.

Dennis Schroder also returned, so the Pacers game marked the third time the Lakers have been able to start Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond all together.

Adding Drummond changes the team’s offense a lot compared to how they play when Marc Gasol is in the team. Gasol is a focal part of the offense when he’s on the court, he receives the ball often and uses his passing ability to facilitate.

He looks for backdoor cuts, and movement whereas Drummond doesn’t have any playmaking responsibilities at all. After James’ return, we’ve seen that the way he will be used most on offense is in a pick & roll.

Whether or not Vogel has had enough time to work out his best rotations is yet to be seen. Against the Pelicans there was no Montrezl Harrell which meant Gasol got more minutes.

Gasol gave another impressive showing off the bench and continued to show that he can offer more than Drummond and Harrell in games. But Harrell is arguably the Lakers’ strongest player on the bench, they are going to need him firing off the bench.

Vogel hasn’t been given enough time to work out how to balance minutes with his three centers while his whole team has been healthy. Although, he may have a rough idea thanks to James’ return.

LeBron James’ Return: Los Angeles Lakers 122-115 Indiana Pacers

At the time this was a very important game for the Lakers so they could continue to put pressure on the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks for a way out of the Play-In tournament.

The Pacers weren’t any near full strength as they were still missing Jeremy Lamb, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and their All-Star Domantas Sabonis also missed the game.

Despite their absences, the game was very competitive. Caris LeVert led the way for the Pacers with 28 points and 12 assists.

However, James’ return wouldn’t disappoint. He did what he has done throughout his career, and that is close to a basketball game.

Despite missing the last six games, he dropped 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists in just over 28 minutes. The Pacers managed to cut the Lakers lead to 111-108 with just over three minutes left of the game.

James would then take over, hitting a clutch three to extend the lead to five. He would go on to score the Lakers’ next two baskets and take the game out of the Pacer’s reach.

The Lakers are going to need James at his best and closing games in the playoffs, so it was big to see close a game in his return just before the playoffs start.

LeBron James’ Return: Los Angeles Lakers 110-98 New Orleans Pelicans

Another game where the Lakers’ opponents were without the core members of their team. The Pelicans were without their star player, Zion Williamson. They were also without the former Lakers players, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram.

The second game since James’ return saw him drop 25 points and 6 assists in just under 27 and a half minutes. The game saw James active at points on the defensive end, as he finished with 3 steals.

James led the Lakers to their fifth victory in a row (he was a part of the last two) to finish their regular season. However, because Portland beat the Denver Nuggets to secure the sixth seed, the Lakers would not move up in the standings.

James ended the season averaging 25 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. He only played 45 games this season and was in the MVP conversation before the ankle injury. James’ return has shown that he is at the same level he was before the injury.

That will likely be the deciding factor of the Lakers playoffs run.

An easier encounter than the previous night against the Pacers. Whilst it showed that James was fully recovered from his injury, there was a scare at the end for Lakers fans.

James tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter when he stepped on Alexander-Walker’s foot after converting a layup. In his post-game interview, James said: “I’ll be fine,” so it seems like there is nothing to worry about as of now.

He has made it clear that he and the team are locked in and he will be playing Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors.

“It’s another challenge for me in the postseason, I’m looking forward to it.” James said.

The Lakers have had a tough season, LeBron James’ return to action is reassuring to their hopes of a Lakers repeat.

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