LeBron James returned to the court Saturday just in time to help the Los Angeles Lakers win their fourth in a row as the regular season nears its close.
James scored 24 points in 28 minutes to help Los Angeles earn a 122-115 road win over the Indiana Pacers. It was the superstar's first game back after missing six with a right ankle injury.
The Pacers appeared poised to complete a massive comeback with an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to cut their deficit to three, but LeBron came through with seven points in the next minute as the Lakers built their lead back to eight.
His three-pointer with 2:43 to play touched off the run and helped Los Angeles regain momentum and close out the win.
Anthony Davis added 28 points, and the Lakers (41-30) tied the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference to create an opening to avoid the play-in tournament.
The Pacers (33-38) were shorthanded with Domantas Sabonis out with a left quad injury as they jockey for seeding in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
Anthony Davis, PF, LAL: 28 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
LeBron James, SF, LAL: 24 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds
Andre Drummond, C, LAL: 11 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks
Caris LeVert, SG, IND: 28 points, 12 assists, 2 steals
JaKarr Sampson, SF, IND: 20 points, 3 rebounds
T.J. McConnell, PG, IND: 8 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals
LeBron and AD Are Ready for the Playoffs
The Lakers had had James and Davis on the court for only two games since mid-February. They showed Saturday it doesn't matter.
James looked healthy Saturday, scoring in a lot of ways:
He also led the team with eight assists while finishing plus-seven.
Davis has played well over the past week and kept it going with another impressive effort:
The duo again showcased their talent as they did on the way to the NBA title last season:
It should be enough to strike fear in the rest of the Western Conference.
The injuries forced the Lakers to slide down the standings, which created a tougher road for them to get to the playoffs and with their potential opponents. But L.A. is still one of the most talented teams in the NBA.
Pacers Showcase Depth Despite Injuries
Playing without Sabonis was a challenge, but Indiana was also without Malcolm Brogdon, Aaron Holiday, Myles Turner, T.J. Warren and others.
The Pacers were competitive thanks to the remaining players, notably Caris LeVert.
It wasn't the most efficient game for the guard, who shot 11-of-23 from the field while tallying seven turnovers, but he showed as he did with the Brooklyn Nets that he can take over games.
LeVert was one of six players to reach double figures for Indiana, while T.J. McConnell fell just short with eight points.
JaKarr Sampson had his best game of the season with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
Center Goga Bitadze also made a significant impact with four blocks, including one on James:
Those roles players were thrust into bigger roles and responded well.
The Lakers will close the regular season Sunday with a road game against the New Orleans Pelicans. They will need a win and a Trail Blazers loss to clinch the sixth seed.
Indiana faces the Toronto Raptors on the road Sunday and could get the eighth seed in the East.