Reaching the end of six-day road trip, even one that only called for three games to be played, can make for a difficult proposition. The Los Angeles Lakers were not only facing that aspect but also a homecoming for LeBron James.
It marked a second consecutive game to fit that bill, though Sunday night in Miami wasn’t nearly as emotional or noteworthy as James’ first visit to Cleveland since leaving the Cavaliers a second time in free agency.
James’ trip back home wasn’t filled with the vitriol 2010 brought about, but instead he was the recipient of a warm welcome during pregame warmups, a tribute video, and cheers as he walked off the court.
James predictably came out of the gate strong but the same could not be said for the Lakers as a whole. Head coach Luke Walton suspected it would be the case but was nonetheless let down by his team’s sluggish start before they managed to turn the tide, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“With all that was going on tonight, I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be a pretty game. I was disappointed in our defense on Tristan. He did a heck of a job. I was disappointed in our pace. It didn’t feel like we had enough energy. We only forced three turnovers — zero in the first half. That’s not who we are. They had 20 more possessions than we did. But I am very happy and proud in the way the guys fought in the fourth quarter, where we had been blowing leads prior and we came back.”
James scored 6 points and had 5 rebounds in the first quarter, and Kyle Kuzma added 7 points on 3-for-3 shooting but the Lakers found themselves trailing by four. Their deficit grew to 11 points with James on the bench in the second quarter in large part because of turnovers.
The game was knotted at 81 heading into the fourth quarter and both teams went on spurts where it looked like they were taking control. James led a late charge and the Lakers ultimately held on for an eighth victory in their last 10 games.