LeBron James exited Tuesday’s Christmas Day matchup against the Golden State Warriors – his first battle against his longtime nemesis as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers – with a strained left groin.
With the Lakers leading in the third quarter on the back of a big defensive effort, James slipped to the court going after a ball that had escaped his grasp. ESPN NBA analyst Mark Jackson and several Twitter users noted that James said he felt something “pop.”
He headed back to the locker room with the Lakers leading 71-57 in the third quarter. Soon the team announced that he had suffered a strained left groin and that his return was questionable. They later ruled him out.
James will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.
“I wasn’t able to go back into the game, obviously. I’ll get an MRI tomorrow and see what’s up,” James said. “With me with injuries, I’m never too concerned about them. I was able to walk off on my own power. I felt a pop, see if I could stretch it a few times, see if it would relieve but it didn’t.”
The Warriors went on a run to close the gap to just two points in third after James went down, but the Lakers seized control again in the fourth quarter, extending the lead back to double digits and cruising to a 127-101 win.
Despite James’ injury it was a huge victory for the Lakers, who had suffered 11 straight losses at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena – a streak that began in 2013.
James – who has played in 156 consecutive games, including playoffs – finished the night with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
“It’s pretty rare for me to have an injury, period,” he said. “It happens and we’ve got a great medical staff here, I’ve got a great trainer.”
James was joined in double figures by six teammates. Perhaps bigger than the balanced scoring was the Lakers’ defensive effort: The Warriors shot just 40.9 percent from the field, including 25 percent from 3.
Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt and Associated Press