LeBron James has been known to lead teams on spectacular second-half runs, and he began his quest to do it again with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Going into the second half of the season, the Lakers were three games out of the final playoff spot in the West. That hole got a bit slimmer when they hosted the Houston Rockets in the first game out of the All-Star break, earning a comeback 111-106 victory.
Things weren’t looking good for much of the game for the Lakers, but they closed the game on a 26-14 run to earn the win.
Both teams got off to a bit of a slow start, which is expected coming off a long layoff. The Lakers were rewarded when James Harden was called for three early fouls in the first quarter, forcing him to head to the bench.
Los Angeles was unable to capitalize on him being out though, and Houston built up a lead as big as 14 in the second quarter. Led by James, the Lakers were able to claw their way back and went into the halftime locker room trailing by just six at 58-52.
The Lakers came out flat defensively to start the third quarter though. Led by 11 points from Harden, the Rockets built their lead up to 17 midway through the third quarter.
Every good team responds to a run with one of their own, and that’s what the Lakers did to end the third quarter. James and Kuzma both played the entire quarter and Los Angeles closed it on a 15-4 run to get back within seven. That run coincided with Josh Hart entering the game for the first time.
The Lakers brought that deficit all the way down to four at the nine-minute mark of the fourth court when James checked back in.
Trailing by five with around five minutes left, James energized the Staples Center crowd with an emphatic dunk. Brandon Ingram then followed with a three-point play to tie the game at 97. James followed with a pair of free throws to give the Lakers their first lead since the first quarter.
Harden picked up two offensive fouls late in the game with James and Kyle Kuzma taking charges, forcing the Rockets to finish out the game without the reigning MVP. Chris Paul also fouled out of the game late, just missing a triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
James led the Lakers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Ingram turning in a solid effort with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
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