LeBron James scored 23 points but had his return to action spoiled as the Boston Celtics secured a 130-108 blowout victory.
The 36-year-old had missed eight games due to an abdominal strain and his presence was a welcome return for the Los Angeles Lakers who had lost five games without their star player.
His return was announced shortly before the game, with the decision made after James finished a shooting session an hour before tip-off.
The Lakers confirmed his return by tweeting that ‘The King has arrived and will play’.
‘I felt okay,’ James said after the match. ‘Obviously being out two and a half weeks I felt kind of like a rookie again, just being away from the game. Excited. Felt good enough that I could trust my body.’
Following the defeat the Lakers now hold an 8-9 record and are ninth in the Western Conference.
James said: ‘It’s never 65 games left (in the season). We need to play better.’
The Lakers will hope James can help turn their season around after a slow start to the season in which they are 6.5 games behind conference leaders the Golden State Warriors.
Boston Celtics have also had a slow start to the season, but All Star Jayson Tatum inspired them to victory on Friday night.
Tatum scored 37 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Marcus Smart got 22 points and Dennis Schroder added 21 as the Celtics climbed back to a .500 record for the season so far.
Anthony Davis led Los Angeles with 31 points and James finished with 23 in 32 minutes. They each had six rebounds and two assists.
The teams who have accounted for nearly half of the NBA’s championships with 17 apiece renewed their rivalry in front of a raucous TD Garden crowd that made it seem like a play-off atmosphere from the opening tip.