LeBron James returned to the court for the first time since missing 13 games with a foot injury and scored 19 points off the bench, but it was Zach LaVine who finished with a game-high 32 points to lift the Chicago Bulls to a 118-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
The Lakers (37-38) saw their three-game winning streak snapped and fell to No. 9 in the Western Conference standings. The Bulls (36-38) earned its seventh win in nine games and sit in the tenth spot in the East standings.
“We weren’t aggressive enough, physical enough,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.
James was surprisingly back in the lineup after being absent for a month after describing his injury as a torn tendon.
“I felt confident in the workouts that I had this week,” James said as the Lakers went 8-5 in his absence while remaining in the playoff race. “And the day after the workouts, when I woke up, stepped out down off the bed, I could possibly play today. And after my work out early before the game today, I knew I could play.”
The 19-time All-Star made six of 11 shots and added eight rebounds in 30 minutes, also committing five turnovers.
“You could see him getting his rhythm, his timing, his finishes, all of that,” Ham said on James returning to his regular form. “He’s a savvy veteran, one of the greatest ever to do it, so it’s not going to take all that much.”
The Bulls led 29-26 in the first quarter and led by as many as 20 points in the second quarter as the Lakers trailed the rest of the way.
DeMar DeRozan had 17 points, 10 assists and six rebounds and Coby White and Andre Drummond added 13 and 12, respectively for the Bulls.
Former Laker Patrick Beverley finished with 10 points and five assists in his first game against Los Angeles since being traded last month.
“I was just playing basketball,” Beverley said. “Obviously it’s good to see some old teammates, old coaching staff.”
Chicago forced Los Angeles into 18 turnovers and outscored the Lakers in each of the first three quarters.
The Lakers trailed by eight at the half, 63-55 but Chicago used a 18-5 run to start the third to take 21-point advantage.
The Lakers remained without D’Angelo Russell, missing his second straight game with a right hip injury.
Troy Brown Jr. and Malik Beasley each scored 18 points apiece for Los Angeles, while Anthony Davis was held to 15 points and nine rebounds on only eight shot attempts.
“They’re a pack-the-paint team, so even on a pick-and-roll and we’re rolling, the pocket is not there. They have five guys in the paint,” Davis said.
LaVine and DeRozan combined to make four three-pointers in the fourth to maintain a double advantage and the Lakers were unable to make a comeback.
“We came out a little flat, turned the ball over early,” Ham said.
The Lakers will next travel for a rematch against the Bulls on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.