LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James had 24 points and 14 rebounds in his return from a 17-game injury absence, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Clippers 123-120 in overtime Thursday night after blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead.
James came up one assist shy of a triple-double. He made 5 of 7 free throws and had no fouls in 40 minutes of his first game since Christmas at Golden State when he strained his left groin. The Lakers were 6-11 during the longest absence of his 16-year career.
Tied 118-all, James scored the go-ahead basket in overtime. Lance Stephenson drove for a flailing layup, hitting Boban Marjanovic in the nose with his left elbow while getting fouled. He completed the three-point play that kept the Lakers ahead 123-118.
Avery Bradley and Lou Williams missed on the same possession, and Williams missed a free throw when Stephenson got called for a technical in a tussle with Bradley.
Williams couldn’t get a potential tying 3-pointer off in the right corner before the final buzzer.
Stephenson added 20 points, including a career-high-tying five 3-pointers for the Lakers. Brandon Ingram added 19 points, and Rajon Rondo had 14 points and 13 rebounds. They enjoyed strong support from the Staples Center crowd as the visiting team.
Williams led the Clippers with 24 points. Patrick Beverley added 17.
Tobias Harris hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in regulation, tying it at 112-all after the Clippers fought back after trailing by 14 early in the fourth.
The Lakers led by seven with just under two minutes to play, but the Clippers erased the deficit on baskets by Williams and Marjanovic before Harris scored from near the right baseline.
James scored five of the Lakers’ first seven points in the fourth for a 94-85 lead.
The Clippers made 5 of 7 free throws to close to 103-101.
The Lakers gained a 14-point lead near the end of the third quarter on Stephenson’s 3-pointer. They outscored the Clippers 33-22 in the period.
Lakers: They improved to 11-13 on the road. … James is the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, where he will captain the Western Conference team. … Kyle Kuzma (left hip strain) and Josh Hart (left knee tendinitis) also returned.
Clippers: Bradley played with a sore right knee and then strained his right quad during the game. … Longtime fan Billy Crystal joined retiring play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler to call the game. … F Danilo Gallinari (low back spasms) missed his seventh straight game. He will join the team on its upcoming road trip and likely return either Sunday at Toronto or Tuesday at Charlotte.
Lakers: At Golden State on Saturday in the second game of their six-stop Grammy road trip.
Clippers: At Detroit on Saturday to start a six-game Grammy trip.
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