LeBron James and Dennis Schroder made their long-awaited return to the lineup and helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a victory over the Indiana Pacers in a rare early Saturday game.
James returned after missing the past several games with right ankle soreness while Schroder was cleared after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. It was one of the few times during the 2020-21 season that the Lakers had their regular starters on the floor and it was a sight to see.
Head coach Frank Vogel believes the team could use more time to gel but did acknowledge that their victory had plenty of things to feel good about. “We still could use a lot more time to find cohesiveness, but I thought there was a lot of positives with today’s game,” Vogel said. “It was a snapshot of what we could look like.
“Certainly, on the defensive end, we could be a lot better than we were. We’ll have to be if we’re going to if we’re going to win in the playoffs, but we really don’t have control of how much time we have, so we just have to make the best of whatever situation we end up in and if we have to play in a play-in game, we’re confident in what we can accomplish.”
One thing that stood out was how often the Lakers were able to get loose for lobs and Vogel admitted this was something he anticipated when James returned to the lineup. “Absolutely. Both of those guys rolling to the basket, AD playing the spinout game in the post, which we haven’t really gotten a lot of this year, but the attention that Drummond draws on the glass frees up a lot of things at the rim as well,” explained Vogel. “So you got two lob threats now with the best passer in the history of the game and you’ve got shooters on the perimeter, too.
“A lot of targets for Bron and I think it was a good first look at that group.”
Offense has been a struggle with James out, but L.A. predictably looked much better on that end against Indiana. The ball movement and passing was the best its looked in weeks and there is optimism that the Purple and Gold can continue building on this and get ready just in time for the playoffs.
James looked healthy in return against Pacers
James played 28 minutes in the win and appeared to be moving just fine throughout the afternoon. He displayed the same burst and explosiveness fans have become accustomed to seeing and he showed that on a highlight dunk off a lob from Schroder.
“I felt pretty good. A lot better than I did the last time I suited up,” James said. “We’ve put in a lot of work obviously off the floor, just getting my ankle right, getting my foot right. But I felt pretty good going into the game. The last game I played I think that was Toronto, I think that halftime break kind of stiffened my leg up, stiffened my ankle up.
“But tonight it was a complete 180 for me allowing me to still play the game that I wanted to play. So I think every game I’ll get better and better but it was a good first test for me.”
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