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Heading into a challenging stretch in the schedule, LeBron James was recently cleared to return to practice but did not travel with the Los Angeles Lakers for their two-game road trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

As the Lakers trailed by 17 points early in a tough environment, it appeared they were on their way to their 22nd loss of the season and eighth in the past 12 games. However, Ivica Zubac and the bench started the second quarter with good effort and quickly cut the deficit to five points.

From there, the young core of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball impacted the game in different ways en route to a 138-128 win over the Thunder.

The game went to overtime because of Ball intentionally fouling Russell Westbrook but it was ruled it came as he went into a shooting motion. The call was curious one and prompted James to ask NBA officials about the rule:

Like the Lakers, James moved on from the controversial call and celebrated the big night:

James also singled out Zubac, who finished with 26 points (career high) and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes:

Considering the circumstances, this was perhaps the best win of the season so far. Through all of the injuries and coming back from a double-digit deficit, the Lakers young core showed significant growth and it is all about being consistent at this point.

As the Lakers are now 5-7 without James and Rajon Rondo, they are keeping pace with the Western Conference. While it has been ugly at times, they have won enough games to make a playoff push once both of their leaders return.

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