LeBron James, back after five games away, scored 21 points on Friday during the Los Angeles Lakers' success in San Antonio at the Spurs (105-94), for their first away victory this season.
The LA star also had eight rebounds and five assists, along with three steals and a blocked shot, in 33 minutes on the court.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham has called the four-time NBA champion "
" after missing five games with a groin injury.
NBA: schedule and results
All eyes were on James, who is on track - if spared from injury - to overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league's all-time leading scorer as early as February.
The 37-year-old star scored the game's first basket and the Lakers quickly took a substantial lead.
They led 59-41 at halftime, but Spurs' young side cut the deficit to 81-78 early in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers then responded quickly, with James' dunk reducing the Californians' lead to 10 points.
I felt pretty good
," said "
Ham was delighted with what he saw.
He was moving well
," he said of James.
Obviously there's going to be some rust...but I thought it was fine
Teammate Anthony Davis scored 11 of his 25 points in the final quarter, finishing with a double-double that also included 15 rebounds.
James expects to be on the court again for the rematch when the Spurs host the Lakers again on Saturday, and he expects to see an improvement in his game. "
My pace and timing was a bit weak on some of my passes
", he said.
But I will be much better as the games progress
Eastern Conference leaders, the Boston Celtics, led by 30 points from Jayson Tatum, beat the Sacramento Kings (122-104) to improve their record to 15 wins for four losses.
In Boston, the Celtics survived a botched third quarter to top the Kings, whose eight wins in November included a seven-game winning streak that ended in a loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks earned a valuable win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (117-102) in a direct fight for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 38 against a Cavaliers who led by 16 in the first half but were drawn 35-10 in the third when the hosts turned the tables.
The Warriors in renewed form
The Phoenix Suns maintained their slim lead in the Western Conference with a win over the Detroit Pistons (108-102).
Deandre Ayton scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Devin Booker added 21 points for the Suns' third straight win.
The Golden State Warriors, defending champions, took advantage of a hot start to win (129-118) against the Utah Jazz, bringing their balance sheet to balance (10-10) in a so far eventful season.
A Morant-Williamson duel
The first two picks of the 2019 draft faced off in New Orleans, where Ja Morant scored 23 points, with four rebounds and 11 assists, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a victory (132-111) over Zion Williamson's Pelicans. .
The latter scored 14 points with five rebounds and four assists, but that fell short of the collective performance of the Grizzlies, who were able to rely on double-digit contributions from Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson, Steven Adams, Brandon Clarke and David Roddy.
In Charlotte, Kelly Oubre scored 28 points and Terry Rozier added 22 in the Hornets' 110-108 win over Minnesota, which ended the Timberwolves' five-game winning streak.
Oklahoma City and Portland both had overtime wins,