Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Lakers gave LeBron James a big present for his 34th birthday on Sunday — they proved they could win a game without him.
The Lakers trailed the Sacramento Kings by seven with 4:30 remaining in the fourth quarter before outscoring them 18-4 the rest of the way en route to a 121-114 victory.
It is the first time in three games that the Lakers have won since James was sidelined with a groin injury.
James arrived at Staples Center a couple minutes after the game tipped off and got a rousing ovation. He left immediately after the game, and there is no timetable on when he will return to the court.
“When we feel comfortable on the basketball court it gives us a better chance to win,” said Brandon Ingram, who scored 21 points, including nine in the fourth. “We just continue to show growth in tight situations we are in.”
The Kings led 110-103 with 4:30 remaining when the Lakers scored 12 straight points over a three-minute span to take control. Ingram, who had seven points during the run, tied it at 110 with a pull-up jumper and then hit a 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining to give Los Angeles a 113-110 lead.
A steal and layup by Iman Shumpert brought the Kings within three, but Caldwell-Pope made a driving layup to make it a two-possession game.
Lakers coach Luke Walton said it was Ingram’s most complete game of the season. The third-year forward also had a season-high nine assists and seven rebounds.
“He seemed to have a joy about him playing tonight that, when he has it, it is a lot of fun to watch,” Walton said.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers (21-16) with a season-high 26 points, and Josh Hart added 22.
Caldwell-Pope had 17 points during the second half, including going 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.
“Coach wants me to shoot more and that’s what I did tonight. It felt good to get a rhythm,” Caldwell-Pope said.
De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento (19-17) with 26 points, while Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 21 apiece.