Nothing has come easy for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Everything gets a bit easier with LeBron James in the lineup, though.
With James returning from suspension but Anthony Davis missing Wednesday night's contest because of flu-like symptoms, the Lakers knocked off the Indiana Pacers 124-116 in overtime.
The Lakers didn't so much as hold a lead in this game until the 4:30 mark of the fourth quarter, but James took over late, scoring seven of the team's final nine points in regulation and eight of its 12 points in overtime.
It looked as though the Lakers were going to win in regulation, only for Chris Duarte to hit an absolute miracle three to tie things up with seconds remaining:
HOW!? Chris Duarte sinks the tough triple to FORCE OT in Indiana! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBARooks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBARooks</a><br><br>Overtime coming up on NBA League Pass: <a href="https://t.co/V0kkYEEIkG">https://t.co/V0kkYEEIkG</a> <a href="https://t.co/KaxeWP9qEn">pic.twitter.com/KaxeWP9qEn</a>
James had the chance to win it in regulation but missed a deep three-point attempt. No matter—he handled his business in overtime.
The win moved the Lakers back to .500 on the year (10-10), while the Pacers fell to 8-12.
Davis first experienced flu-like symptoms before Tuesday's game against the New York Knicks, though he was able to play. But with the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back, Davis wasn't able to give it a go Wednesday. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters Davis was "in bed all day with that fever."
"He's been in every game, and it's a different challenge for us obviously with what he does on both sides of the ball, and this is a big team that we're playing against, so we will definitely miss his size and length inside," he added. "We just have to adjust. We've been putting guys in and out of the lineup all year, so it's no different for us tonight."
For much of the game, the Lakers didn't seem to make the necessary adjustments. But James, as he's done for his teams so much in the past, bailed them out down the stretch. They call him the King for a reason.
LeBron James, LAL: 39 points, six assists
Russell Westbrook, LAL: 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists
Carmelo Anthony, LAL: 14 points
Domantas Sabonis, IND: 14 points, 12 rebounds, six assists
Chris Duarte, IND: 17 points
Malcolm Brogdon, IND: 28 points, 5-of-10 from three
LeBron Was Excellent in His Return
The Lakers needed a big night from James with AD unavailable, and he rose to the occasion.
The Lakers needed every last point and assist, with Westbrook struggling from the field (5-of-15 from the field) and turning the ball over four times. The rest of the starting lineup wasn't much better. Luckily, Anthony and the bench contributed 53 bench points.
But in closing time, it was the LeBron show. It was another reminder of how much the awkwardly constructed Lakers will rely on James this season. He rescued the Lakers from a road game they very easily could have dropped.
Malcolm Brogdon Was Feeling it from Deep
The Pacers played a solid, balanced game Wednesday, but Brogdon's red-hot shooting from beyond the arc buried the Lakers.
Bally Sports Indiana @BallySportsIN
BIG bucket from Brogdon.<br><br>Stream: <a href="https://t.co/wssEtE5l7g">https://t.co/wssEtE5l7g</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldBlooded?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldBlooded</a> <a href="https://t.co/b7tmUAPUEd">pic.twitter.com/b7tmUAPUEd</a>
Bally Sports Indiana @BallySportsIN
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pacers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pacers</a> take a double digit lead on a Brogdon's fourth three-pointer of the game.<br><br>Stream: <a href="https://t.co/wssEtE5l7g">https://t.co/wssEtE5l7g</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoldBlooded?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoldBlooded</a> <a href="https://t.co/YxSv7lb0Hq">pic.twitter.com/YxSv7lb0Hq</a>
The Pacers got off to a brutal start this season, going 1-6 out of the gate. But they're 7-6 since and have won two of three, an indicator that perhaps this group is starting to figure things out.
This is a team that doesn't have a true superstar but has plenty of very good players. Brogdon has been their best player thus far, a trend that continued Wednesday.
Both teams are back in action Friday. The Pacers will host the Toronto Raptors at 8 p.m. ET, while the Lakers will host the Sacramento Kings at 10:30 p.m. ET.