LeBron James Drops 16 in Return from Injury as Lakers Lose to Kings 110-106

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIMay 1, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, passes the ball past Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The return of LeBron James after he missed nearly six weeks with a high ankle sprain wasn't enough to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to victory Friday night.

The defending champions fell to the Sacramento Kings 110-106 at Staples Center as James posted 16 points in 32 minutes during his first game since March 20. He was not on a minutes restriction.

L.A. (36-27) continued to get closer to full strength with James and Anthony Davis back in the lineup. With nine games left in Los Angeles' regular season, its focus will turn to getting James, Davis, Andre Drummond and Dennis Schroder into the type of rhythm that can carry the defending champions back to the NBA Finals.

It's clear that may take some time, as the 26-37 Kings picked up their second win over the Lakers this season.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

LeBron couldn’t make the potential game-winning 3. Kings win. https://t.co/3I0yprVCNQ

Notable Performers

LeBron James, SF, Los Angeles Lakers: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists

Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks

Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Sacramento Kings: 23 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds

Richaun Holmes, C, Sacramento Kings: 22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists


Return of The King

The question of how long it would take James, Davis and Drummond to find a rhythm after finally getting back on the floor together was answered rather quickly: 

Just one quarter. 

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

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Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

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After a sluggish start on Friday night saw Los Angeles trailing 30-23 following the opening frame, the Lakers' new-look starting lineup won the next two quarters with ease, and it didn't even take an epic performance from James. Instead, the small forward seemed to focus on the basics of his game: dishing out early assists, driving the lane for easy layups and crashing the boards without hesitation. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron lob to Drummond 🔨 https://t.co/3o8X9jG2Rh

James even had a chance to win it at the buzzer but couldn't get a 32-foot three-pointer to fall. 

He finished the night 6-of-12 from the field (1-of-5 from three) while cashing in on three of his five attempts at the line.

James got things started with an assist to Drummond, then kept feeding his newest big man for easy looks at the rim, not to mention a few spectacular dunks. That's not to say there weren't hiccups. A few of James' no-look passes missed the mark entirely, leading to five turnovers. 

After missing 20 consecutive games for the first time in his career, those mistakes are less a reason for concern than a product of rust. 

Friday night provided a rare perfect opportunity for James to knock it off. Six of the Lakers' remaining nine games come against surefire playoff teams. As he continues to ramp up, so too will the competition. 


Sacramento Storms Back 

The Kings started off the night with a first-quarter blitz of the Lakers. They finished off the fourth quarter with one, too. 

Just as the Lakers appeared ready to roll to victory and rest James for most of the fourth quarter, the Kings went on a 32-18 run to steal a win on the road.

Sacramento Kings @SacramentoKings

Ty said 𝗡𝗢𝗣𝗘. https://t.co/F7sx1PKqQB

After falling behind by 11 despite taking an early 15-point lead, the Kings cut the lead down to single possessions on multiple occasions before finally taking a four-point lead with three minutes remaining. 

That proved to be the difference as rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton, center Richaun Holmes and reserve Terence Davis (15 points) came up big play after big play late in the game.

Sacramento Kings @SacramentoKings

𝙏𝙮'𝙨 turn to get 🆙 https://t.co/MBp9hZ83cC

The Lakers responded to the run by repeatedly forcing their way back to the free-throw line (15-of-21) but couldn't lock up their 37th win of the season. Not even sending James back in at the under-four timeout stymied the Kings. 

James missed two deep three-pointers by a wide margin as the Lakers dropped their fifth game in their last six contests. 

L.A. also lost the season series to Sacramento, 2-1. 

The first test for James after his ankle injury instead resulted in one of the biggest wins of the season for Sacramento.    

Sacramento Kings @SacramentoKings

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What's Next

The Lakers' three-game homestand continues Sunday with the Toronto Raptors visiting Staples Center at 10 p.m ET on NBATV. That kicks off a back-to-back with the Denver Nuggets in town on Monday at 10 p.m. on ESPN. The Kings will visit Dallas on Sunday for an 8 p.m. ET showdown with the Mavericks.