NBA

LeBron turns in 'performance for the ages' in return from suspension

By Sports Desk November 24, 2021

LeBron James worked out the frustration of serving the first suspension of his NBA career in his return to the court Wednesday. 

James poured in a season-high 39 points and made a pair of key three-pointers in overtime as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers 124-116. 

James had to sit out LA's loss at the New York Knicks the night before after being suspended by the league for his part in an altercation with Isaiah Stewart of the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. 

In his return to the court, James hit several important shots while also spending much of the game playing center on defence as Anthony Davis sat out the contest with flu-like symptoms. 

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel piled on the superlatives in describing James' all-around performance. 

"There were several times we were down 10, and we kept fighting and obviously the big fella took us home," Vogel told reporters. 

"What LeBron did tonight was just a performance for the ages. I know these fans and how much they love their hoops here in Indianapolis, and he put on one hell of a show.

"I know he wanted to get this W. He really wanted to play in that Knicks game. Madison Square Garden, he looks forward to that every year and it was very disappointing for him to not be able to be in that game. He bounced back tonight."

It looked as if the Lakers would win in regulation when James hit a three-pointer for a 110-104 lead with 1:17 to play in the fourth quarter, but Indiana rookie Chris Duarte tied the game on a three of his own with 6.5 seconds to play. 

James missed a long three in the closing seconds of regulation but got the job done in overtime, his back-to-back threes breaking a tie and putting the Lakers on top for good. 

Along the way, James also asked game officials to eject two fans sitting courtside in Indianapolis. He did not go into detail about that incident after the game, saying only "when obscene gestures and language come into it, [it] can’t be tolerated." 

In his first comments to reporters since the suspension was handed down, James said hitting Stewart in the face Sunday was "definitely accidental" and that was why he apologised immediately. 

“I’m not that kind of player," James said. "I didn’t think it warranted a suspension.”

Frustrating as it was to watch powerless as the Lakers (10-10) fell to the Knicks, he said he believes the team is making progress overall. 

"I think [Tuesday] we played some good ball even in my absence, we just weren't able to come through on that one," he said. "Obviously second half of that Detroit game we played exceptional, especially in that fourth quarter, so we want to continue to build off of it. 

"We want to continue to work on habits and continue to play Laker basketball and if we do that close to 48 minutes we put ourselves in good position to win."

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    "I don't need to score 30 a night, but I'm in one of the best zones offensively I've been in, in my career," James told reporters. 

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    "As I've continued to climb the ranks, it's natural, human to look at it and see where you are and see if it's even possible. See if you're capable," added James, who is 2,006 points behind the record.

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