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LeBron James reacts to first game back since second ankle injury

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LeBron James provided a positive report after returning from a six-game absence to deliver the Los Angeles Lakers (41-30) a crucial win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

James dropped 24 points on 11-of-22 shooting to go along with eight assists and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. The Lakers held on to win 112-115, keeping their hopes of the no. 6 seed alive for one more day.

James looked spry early on, exemplified by a throwback above-the-rim finish on a lob from Dennis Schröder, who had missed the past seven games in the league’s health and safety protocols.

In his on-court interview with Spectrum, James said his ankle felt “much better than it did…the last game that I played…A lot more mobility, a lot more movement…a tiny bit of soreness right now as the game is over, which I expected, but I didn’t have a set-back today.”

James last played on May 2nd vs. the Toronto Raptors, but had to leave early with what he described as a “sharp pain” in his ankle.

James revealed that the Saturday’s early tip-off time threw his preparation “for a loop,” as he found out on the flight that they were playing at 1 p.m. ET rather than at night. Encouragingly, he said his ankle “responded very well.”

Throughout the first half, James’s orchestration instantly ignited the Lakers’ ball movement, creating numerous lobs and easy looks for Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond in just the second game all season with the four aforementioned Lakers together in the starting lineup.

“I felt pretty good, lot better than I did last time I suited up,” James reiterated. “Last game I played, that halftime break kind of stiffened my leg up. But tonight it was a complete 180, allowed me to still play the game I wanted to play…It was a good first test for me.”

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel heaped historic praise on the future Hall of Famer.

“With those guys rolling to the basket, AD playing the spin-out game in the post…the attention that Drummond draws on the glass frees up a lot of things at the rim, as well. You’ve got two lob threats now with the best passer in the history of the game, and you’ve got shooters on the perimeter too. Lots of targets for LeBron, so I think it was a good first look at that group.”

Vogel called it “very welcome” to have his best player back. “He looked really good…I thought most of the game he was in control, looked like his old self.”

James resembled himself in the clutch, too. Following an untimely four-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter that allowed Indiana to cut the lead to three, James embarked on a personal 7-0 run, including his only three of the afternoon.

 

“He’s LeBron James,” Vogel added. “His IQ, his ability to make plays in every way you can make a play. Helped us close the game out.”

As for Sunday’s season finale at the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers coaches and medical staff will determine James’ (and Davis’) status on game day.

Whether they wind up in the no. 6 seed or the play-in game, well, James isn’t worried about that, either.

“Let the chips fall where they may. We’re ready to go.”