Video: Lance Stephenson 'Goes UFC' on Boban Marjanovic as Lakers Beat Clippers in LeBron's Return

Lance Stephenson, Los Angeles Lakers
Lance Stephenson #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his three pointer during a 123-120 win over the LA Clippers at Staples Center on January 31 in Los Angeles, California. Harry How/Getty Images

LeBron James made his return after a month-long absence but Lance Stephenson stole the show on Thursday night, as the Lakers won an-all Los Angeles affair against the Clippers.

The 28-year-old came off the bench to finish with 20 points, including career-high-tying five three-pointers, as the Lakers won 123-120 in overtime.

The play of the night, however, was as crucial as it was controversial. With the Lakers 120-118 ahead, Stephenson caught Clippers' center Boban Marjanovic straight in the nose with his left elbow as he drove for a layup.

Lance always living his best life.

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 1, 2019

Much to the dismay of Clippers fans not only was the basket allow to stand but the referee penalized Marjanovic, sending Stephenson to the charity stripe for a free throw he duly converted to give his team a five-point lead.

Lance goes UFC before his dance

— Eric Rosenthal (@ericsports) February 1, 2019

I am absolutely furious. That’s the worst call I’ve seen all night, and there have been some awful calls. Boban just got ROCKED by Lance and Lance gets rewarded for it. Absolutely HORRIBLE.

— Clipperholics (@ClipperholicsFS) February 1, 2019

Dare I say the ball doesn't get near Lance this time ...

— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 1, 2019

Boban vs. Lance 4th Q crunch time is peak NBA entertainment.

— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 1, 2019

Reckless foul by Boban on Lance's elbow with his face there.

Just no place for that in the game.

— Dave DuFour (@DaveDuFourNBA) February 1, 2019

This is a foul on Boban Marjanovic and an and-1 opportunity for Lance Stephenson. Makes zero sense. #Clippers #Lakers

— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 1, 2019

The Clippers managed to cut the lead to two before Lou Williams missed a potential game-tying three pointer at the buzzer, which only made the incident involving Stephenson and Marjanovic more controversial.

Aside from Stephenson's flying elbow, the main news of the nigh was LeBron's return. The three-time NBA champion had last played against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, when he suffered a groin injury that kept him out for the next 17 games.

The suggestion LeBron could be rusty after such a long layoff was swiftly dismissed as the 34-year-old finished just one assist short of a triple-double. James had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists on his return from the longest absence of his career.

"I've never been injured before like that," James was quoted as saying by NBC Los Angeles after the game. "The most I've sat out was two weeks. And I broke my wrist when I was in high school. I was a junior. I didn't come here to sit on the bench. I love clothes. I love suits, but I didn't come here to put on a suit. I came here to put on a jersey and shorts. That's what I came here to do—lead a team."

Lead a team he did, as the Lakers secured only the second win in the last five games and improved to 27-25.

The 16-time NBA champions went 6-11 during LeBron's absence, falling from fourth to ninth in the Western Conference rankings and remain one point behind the Clippers, who currently hold the final playoff berth in the west.

LeBron wasn't the only Laker to return from injury on Thursday night, as Kyle Kuzma played his first game since January 24. The second-year power forward finished with 10 points in 23 minutes, while Rajon Rondo added 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers now face a five-game road trip, which begins in Oakland on Saturday and will also take them to Indianapolis, Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta.