);
Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers defeat the LA Clippers 123-120 in LeBron James' return

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LeBron James [NBA Getty Images]

After a long 17-game stretch, LeBron James returned to action versus the LA Clippers in a Battle for the STAPLES Center on Friday.

The Clippers took the first of four meetings between the two teams this season back on Dec. 28 - the second game the Lakers played after James suffered a groin injury on Christmas Day.

The outcome was different tonight with LeBron in the lineup as the Lakers picked up the win 123-120, but it took overtime.

The purple and gold had a comfortable 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter before the blue and red made their comeback. In the first five minutes of the final frame the Clippers went on a 20-10 run to make it a two-point game with seven minutes to go.

The Lakers brought that lead back to commanding eight-point lead with 3:17 on the clock but the Clippers weren't ready to call it quits yet. They took a 9-1 run capped off by a Tobias Harris 3-pointer to tie the game with 35 seconds remaining in what would eventually send the game into OT.

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With the Lakers up by four in the extra period, a costly turnover lead to a Lou Williams fast break layup to bring the Clippers within two with two minutes to go. The Clippers tied things up on their next possession but a classic stepback jumper by LeBron, followed by a steal by LeBron, followed by a Lance Stephenson and-1 in transition put this one away for good.

James finished with a near-triple-double of 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. He shot 40.9 percent from the field in 41 minutes of playing time in his first game back. Stephenson was LeBron's wingman of the night, scoring 20 points on five made threes off the bench.

For the Clippers, it was Williams' 24 points and six assists off the bench that kept them in it.

The Lakers went 6-11 during LeBron's absence - they were in fourth place in the Western Conference, just 2.5 games out of first place at the time of his injury. They now sit in ninth place, one game back from the Clippers for the No. 8 seed in the conference and 9.5 games back from the Golden State Warriors for first place.

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