LeBron James scored 32 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out seven assists to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a come-from-behind 109-105 win on Wednesday in his return to Cleveland.
The Lakers, sparked by James, went on a 16-3 run late in the fourth quarter to erase a 99-91 Cavaliers lead.
Former Laker Jordan Clarkson scored 20 points and ignited a 13-4 fourth-quarter run in which the Cavs turned an 87-86 deficit into a 99-91 lead with 5:41 to go.
But Kyle Kuzma’s 24-foot 3-pointer cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 99-94, and then No. 23 took over — an all-too-familiar sight for Cleveland fans. Only this time, it spelled another defeat for the home crowd.
James made two free throws, connected on a 3-point jumper and made three more foul shots to put the Lakers up 102-99.
From there it was a matter of the Lakers making free throws to ice the game, and while James struggled on the night from the charity stripe, going 8-for-12, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope calmly made four straight to seal the win for the Lakers.
All five Los Angeles starters scored in double figures, and Caldwell-Pope added 13 off the bench.
Cedi Osman led Cleveland with 21 points.
James’ former teammate and good friend Tristan Thompson scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Cavaliers did not play like a team that entered the game at 2-13, the league’s worst record.
The sellout crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena gave James a rousing standing ovation during the team’s introduction, thanking him for bringing Cleveland its first championship — a memorable title over Golden State in 2016, ending a 52-year drought.
James received warm hugs and handshakes from his former teammates, but when it was time to play, the Cavaliers came out inspired.
After the game, James said, “To come back and get the reception that I got tonight, it means a lot to not only myself, but for my family and friends that were here tonight, and my family that’s back home in L.A. as well.”
James scored the first points of the game and JaVale McGee’s dunk gave the Lakers a 4-0 lead. From there, it was a see-saw affair with Cleveland holding the upper hand most of the way.
In the first quarter, there would be 10 lead changes and five ties.
About four minutes into the game, the Cleveland organization honored James with an emotional video tribute thanking the native of Akron, Ohio, (about 30 minutes south of Cleveland) for all the work on the court as well as for his humanitarian work in northeastern Ohio.
Once again, it was back to work for both teams, with the Cavs being very workmanlike.
The Cavs maintained some offensive consistency in the second period as they attacked and were aggressive. Cleveland opened up an 11-point lead on a pair of free throws by Andrew Harrison.