NBA regular season

LeBron James returns, fuels key Lakers win over Pacers

LeBron James returns, fuels key Lakers win over Pacers

BIG WIN. Lakers forward LeBron James pulls up his dribble as Pacers' TJ McConnell (left) and Caris LeVert defend.

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

LeBron James and the Lakers still have a shot at avoiding the play-in round after scoring a crucial win over the Pacers

LeBron James scored seven consecutive points over a one-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter to help the Los Angeles Lakers record a 122-115 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, May 15 (Sunday, May 16, Manila time) in Indianapolis.

James, playing his first game since May 2 and just his third since March 20, finished with 24 points, a team-high 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.

Anthony Davis collected 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Lakers (41-30), who entered play a half-game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

Los Angeles closes the regular season on Sunday in New Orleans.

The Lakers took care of business in the first half of the weekend back-to-back, leading Indiana (33-38) almost the entire way. 

But behind Caris LeVert’s 28 points and game-high 12 assists, the Pacers battled back from a deficit of as many as 14 points to pull within a single possession late in the fourth quarter.

LeVert hit a jumper with a little more than three minutes remaining, cutting the deficit to three points. 

James, who missed his first three three-point attempts, responded with a successful shot from beyond the arc on a step-back off a ball screen.

That triple ignited James to seven consecutive points, pushing the Lakers’ lead back to eight points with 1:43 remaining. Indiana could not draw any closer than five points for the rest of the way.

Los Angeles’ Dennis Schroder scored 14 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 13, Talen Horton-Tucker had 11, and Andre Drummond finished with 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.

Indiana’s JaKarr Sampson scored 20 points, Doug McDermott had 17, and Kelan Martin added 15. Goga Bitadze made one of his game-high 4 blocked shots on James during Indiana’s late-game rally, and also posted 10 points and a team-high 7 rebounds.

With star forward Domantas Sabonis sidelined, however, Indiana was outrebounded by a 45-37 margin.

Although the Pacers lost, Charlotte’s defeat at New York on Saturday keeps the teams tied for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. –