LeBron James faces Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- LeBron James returned to the lineup against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, scoring 41 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 119-114 loss.

James sat out the Cavs' loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night with soreness in his left knee. Coach David Blatt said at the time that he did not believe the issue was serious and that the move was precautionary.

The four-time MVP said he first started to experience discomfort in the third quarter of the Cavs' win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and his knee "swelled up" on the team's flight to Oklahoma City the following day. He could not recall a specific play that caused the flare-up, however.

James went through a series of on-court tests Friday prior to tipoff to determine if he would play or not.

"It's the same tests that me and Mike (Mancias), my trainer, always go through to see if I'm able to do the things I can do out on the floor," James said. "I wasn't able to pass them in Oklahoma City, so that's why I didn't play. I was able to pass them today, so it's just all the movements that I need to do for me, as far as a basketball player, to help my team on the floor."

The Thunder contest was the first game James has missed this season and just the 45th he has missed over his 12-year career. He said that losing out on a chance to play against Kevin Durant only added to his disappointment.

"I don't like to miss any game," James said. "Obviously I love competing against some of the best, and KD is definitely one of the best. But more than anything, I hate not being out there for my teammates and I'm happy I can get back out there with them today."

James balked at the idea of scheduling games off for him over the course of the 82-game season to keep his body fresh.

"It's not in my nature if you can't quite figure that out yet," James said. "Last night I hated to take that one off but I didn't feel like I could give my game to my teammates like I'm capable of doing. But I can't. The basketball gene in me won't allow me to do it. If I'm out, there's a real reason why I'm out."

Despite his reluctance to sit games out, he admitted that his coaches sometimes would like for him to take a break.

"Every circumstance is different," James said. "I'm going to fight (to play), they're going to fight with me (to sit). So, I mean, it's just the love of the game, man. I got so much love for the game I try to do everything I can (to play) when I can. When I'm done and I can't play the game no more, I wish I got those games back. But I do got to be smart sometimes. I'm rounding 30 (years old) in a couple days, so we'll see."

Both James and Blatt dismissed the idea of the star forward's heavy minutes load contributing to his knee pain.

"LeBron James' minutes per game right now are probably at his low for his career, if I'm not mistaken," Blatt said. "So I think we're doing pretty good in that area. Obviously we'd like to see him on the court for as many valuable minutes as possible each game and where and when it's possible to give him more rest, we will."

Entering Friday, James was averaging 38.0 minutes per game -- second-most in the NBA this season. The least amount of playing time James has ever logged was 37.5 minutes per game for Miami in 2011-12.

"I haven't really paid attention to them as of late," James said of his minutes. "My only concern is how we continue to improve and how our game continues to translate from practices, shootarounds and film sessions onto the floor. So that's been my mind frame and I don't feel like my minutes have been too grueling over the past couple weeks."

Kyrie Irving also played Friday night. The point guard collided with the Thunder's Russell Westbrook in the first half Thursday but returned to the court. He was diagnosed with a knee contusion.

"I hurt a little bit this morning. That's all I'm going to give you guys," Irving said of his rapid recovery from what first looked like a serious knee injury. "Regardless if it hurt or not, I was still going to try to give it a go. That's the way I got to be on this team and the way I want to be."