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LeBron wins, gets ovation in NBA return to Cleveland



LeBron James made a triumphant return to Cleveland and received a standing ovation from supportive fans before leading the Los Angeles Lakers over the Cavaliers 109-105 on Wednesday.

James scored 32 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and made seven assists to spark the Lakers, who closed the contest with an 18-6 run to win for the sixth time in seven games.

“We cranked up our defence in the fourth quarter,” James said. “They played a heck of a game but we kept our composure. We’re a young crew. We keep getting better.”

It was an emotional night for James in his first game back in his home region since the 33-year-old playmaker left the Cavaliers for the Lakers in July, but nothing like his 2010 return after departing Cleveland for Miami and leaving angry and booing fans feeling betrayed.

After returning from Miami in 2014 and making good two years later on his vow to make the Cavs into champions, “King” James was treated like visiting royalty.

There were cheers when James trotted onto the court for pre-game warm-ups, a huge standing ovation when he was introduced and, after James scored on the Lakers’ first possession, a video highlight tribute to huge applause.

“To come back and get the reception I got, it means a lot not only to myself but my family,” James said.

“My 11 years I played for this franchise I tried to give everything I could on and off the court.”

The Lakers improved to 10-7, their best record since April 2013, while the Cavs fell to an NBA-worst 2-14.

Cleveland’s Jordan Clarkson hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 96-87 Cavs lead, but James sparked a closing rally with a late 3-pointer, dunk and four free throws.

Cameroonian centre Joel Embiid outshined New Orleans big man Anthony Davis to power the Philadelphia 76ers over the Pelicans 121-120.

Embiid fouled Davis on a 3-point shot with two seconds remaining. Davis hit two free throws but missed the third and Embiid batted away the rebound to keep the Sixers unbeaten at home (10-0) with a fourth consecutive win.

Embiid finished with game highs of 31 points and 19 rebounds with two blocked shots while Davis had 12 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and five blocked shots.

Australian Ben Simmons had 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the 76ers. E’Twaun Moore and Jrue Holiday each had 30 points for New Orleans.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 24 points and Kyle Lowry had 21 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds to spark the NBA-best Toronto Raptors over host Atlanta 124-108. The Canadians rose to 15-4 while the Hawks, led by Jeremy Lin’s 26 points, fell to 3-15.

James Harden scored 43 points and Clint Capela added 27 points and 15 rebounds to power the Houston Rockets over visiting Detroit 126-124.

Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists to power Milwaukee over Portland 143-100, improving the Bucks to an NBA second-best 13-4 and dropping the Trail Blazers from the Western Conference lead.

Moving into the West’s top spot was Memphis, which edged San Antonio 104-103 on two Marc Gasol free throws with 0.7 of a second remaining. Mike Conley scored 30 points and Spaniard Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.

Harrison Barnes scored 28 points to lead the host Dallas Mavericks over Brooklyn 119-113 while Paul Millsap scored 25 points to lead Denver in a 103-101 victory at Minnesota.

Zach LaVine scored 29 points and Jabari Parker added 20 points and 13 rebounds for Chicago in a 124-116 victory over visiting Phoenix.

Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein scored 23 points to lead seven double-figure scorers in the Kings’ 119-110 win at Utah.

Reserve Trey Burke had 29 points and 11 assists to lead New York over host Boston 117-109 while Jeremy Walker’s 21 points led seven double-figure scorers for Charlotte in a 127-109 win over visiting Indiana.