Los Angeles, May 16: LeBron James returned to the court after his latest injury as the Los Angeles Lakers boosted their hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament with a 122-115 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday (May 15).
James had missed 26 of the Lakers' past 28 matches due to an ankle injury sustained on March 20 but played 28 minutes in his return against the Pacers.
The four-time NBA MVP scored 24 points and had seven rebounds and eight assists, while Anthony Davis added 28 points with 10 rebounds.
Dennis Schroder also returned to the Lakers side, contributing 14 points in a positive sign ahead of the post-season.
The Lakers still have work to do to make the top six, needing to win their final game on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans and hope that the Portland Trail Blazers lose to the Denver Nuggets.
If the Lakers miss the top six, they will compete in the play-in tournament in the West, between sides finishing seventh to 10th.
One-possession game in crunch time.
Cue three straight @KingJames bucketsMay 15, 2021
Nets' big three reunited but rusty
The Brooklyn Nets also enjoyed a return of their own, with James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving hitting the court together for the first time since February 13 in their 105-91 win over the Chicago Bulls.
The Nets' big three have only played together eight times, improving that record to 6-2 ahead of the playoffs where they are likely to be second seed in the East.
Harden, who has had a hamstring injury, only managed five points, five rebounds and seven assists, while Kyrie Irving added 22 points.
Durant had 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists, although he was 4-for-17 from the field in a rusty display.
Valuable contributions from reserves Nicolas Claxton (10 points and eight rebounds) and Jeff Green (19 points) aided Brooklyn's cause.
22 points for 11.
KAI-lights pic.twitter.com/aQSlLEGKPX— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) May 15, 2021
The Milwaukee Bucks kept the pressure on the Nets for second seeding in the East with a 122-108 win over the Miami Heat.
Jrue Holiday (20 points, five rebounds and 10 assists), Khris Middleton (21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (15 points, nine rebounds and four assists) all made key contributions.
The result means the Bucks can still move above the Nets into second if they win against the Bulls and the Nets lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Sunday's final regular season matches.
Jayson Tatum stepped up in Jaylen Brown's absence with 26 points and 11 rebounds in the Boston Celtics' 124-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The win ends the Celtics' four-game losing run.
Hornets stung again
The Charlotte Hornets are destined for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament but they have now worryingly lost four in a row ahead of the post-season, going down 118-109 to the New York Knicks in overtime. Charlotte have had a tough run of fixtures, losing to the Knicks, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Suns burning bright
The Phoenix Suns' 140-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs keeps alive their hopes of clinching top seed in the West. But it was also the Suns' 50th win for the season, representing the first time they have achieved that feat since the 2009-2010 season which was the last time they made the playoffs.
Brooklyn Nets 105-91 Chicago Bulls
New York Knicks 118-109 Charlotte Hornets (OT)
Los Angeles Lakers 122-115 Indiana Pacers
Boston Celtics 124-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
Phoenix Suns 140-103 San Antonio Spurs
Milwaukee Bucks 122-108 Miami Heat
Nuggets at Trail Blazers
The fine margin between sixth and seventh, thus a playoff and play-in tournament spot, is on the line when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Denver Nuggets, with the Los Angeles Lakers hoping for a Portland defeat whilst needing to win at the New Orleans Pelicans.