Now both James and Rondo are healthy and the Lakers need everything they can get out of them on Thursday.
"I'm about 80 [percent] right now, but I was good enough to feel confident and push throughout the game", James said.
"Definitely ecstatic about being back out there with my guys, but being out five weeks, I'm feeling it right now", James said afterward.
James, who was hurt in the Lakers' win over Golden State on December 25, was initially listed as out for the Thursday night game on Wednesday, and then upgraded to doubtful on Thursday morning.
The Lakers led by 14 early in the fourth quarter, but the Clippers pulled within two on a three-point play by backup center Boban Marjanovic with 7:25 remaining.
LeBron James finished just shy of a triple-double on his return from injury as he helped the Lakers overcome the Clippers 123-120 in overtime in the Los Angeles derby.
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Stephenson scored the fast-break layup on a feed from LeBron James while getting hit by Marjanovic, who was assessed a personal foul. I want to see how my body reacts tomorrow. The current injury stint has been the longest James' 16-year National Basketball Association career.
The Lakers are still in the playoff hunt, LeBron James says, despite a miserable run during his absence with a strained groin. "That's going to be the tell-tale sign of the rehab and the work I've been putting in these last five weeks".
Lou Williams scored 24 points off the bench to lead the Clippers, who had won 22 of their previous 25 matchups against the Lakers.
Calling him "the greatest player on the planet", centre Tyson Chandler, who scored four points, hailed the 34-year-old James for "bringing his superpowers".
Lance Stephenson then completed a three-point play that kept the Lakers ahead 123-118.