The Los Angeles Lakers have been playing with half of a roster for most of the season, but on Friday, they took a major step towards becoming whole. LeBron James, who has missed the past five games with an adductor strain, returned to the fold for the front half of a back-to-back against the San Antonio Spurs. It was the first game of the season he has played with Dennis Schroder, who started at point guard with Patrick Beverley serving the first game of a three-game suspension.
That roster churn was evident in one of the sloppier games James has played in recent memory. Though the Lakers eked out a surprisingly difficult 105-94 victory over the Spurs, James committed nine turnovers. That's the most he's accumulated in a game since Jan. 26, 2018 against the Indiana Pacers, when he had 11. As a team, the Lakers committed 21 turnovers, tied for their most of the season with an earlier loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
James made up for it with 21 points and five assists, but once again, the story was a dominant performance from Anthony Davis. Though his streak of 30-point games came to a close, he still put up 25 and maintained his now five-game streak of pulling in 15 or more rebounds. The Lakers may have been sloppy on Friday, but Davis was there to clean up their mistakes and secure a badly needed victory.
The Spurs will have a chance at redemption Saturday when these two teams play a rematch, but at this point, it's not clear whether or not James, coming off of that injury, will play. If the Lakers can secure a victory Saturday they'd move to 7-11 on the season and 5-1 in in their past six games, generating the first positive momentum they've had all season. Of course, many of those victories have come against some of the NBA's worst teams, and the Spurs are no exception. They've lost 12 of their past 13.
Beating better teams will require more disciplined play from James and the Lakers as a whole, and given time he'll likely get healthier and more comfortable with this ever-shifting roster. It wasn't pretty Friday, but the Lakers earned a victory in LeBron's first game back, and it's hard to ask for much more than that given the way this season has played out.