Lakers’ World Peace ejected for elbowing Harden; OKC falls in 2OT
BY GREG BEACHAM Associated Press
Sunday, April 22, 2012
4/22/12 at 6:57 PM
LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant scored six of his 26 points in the second overtime, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half for a 114-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
Metta World Peace scored 12 points before getting ejected late in the second quarter for a vicious elbow to James Harden’s head while celebrating a dunk. Harden, who had 14 points, briefly returned to Oklahoma City’s bench, but didn’t play again.
Pau Gasol had 20 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who made an impressive comeback in their regular-season home finale against off-target Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined to miss 42 of their 56 shots.
The Lakers did it with an unorthodox lineup featuring seldom-used Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill alongside Bryant, Gasol and backup point guard Steve Blake, who hit three key 3-pointers. Ebanks had eight points and two key defensive plays in the final minute, while Hill had 14 points and a career high-tying 15 rebounds.
Durant had 35 points on 11-for-34 shooting and eight rebounds for the Thunder, who led by 11 points with 4 minutes left in regulation. Westbrook had 14 points on 3-for-22 shooting and 10 assists as Oklahoma City fell a full game behind San Antonio atop the Western Conference with its third loss in nine games.
Bryant struggled through the first three quarters of his first home game since April 6 before coming alive down the stretch, including two key 3-pointers in the final minutes of regulation. Bryant then hit the tiebreaking fall-away jumper with 52 seconds left in the second overtime, followed by two free throws as the Lakers hung on.
Serge Ibaka added 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder.
World Peace was making major contributions to the Lakers on both ends of the court before his ejection for yet another unpredictable outburst in the erstwhile Ron Artest’s long history of misbehavior.
He had just dunked on a fast break and was headed back upcourt when he ran into Harden, who already had 14 points for Oklahoma City. While pounding his chest with his right arm, World Peace raised his elbow over Harden’s shoulder and cleanly hit Harden in the back of the skull.
Harden dropped to the court and stayed down for about a minute before heading to the locker room. Ibaka and other Thunder players challenged World Peace, but were kept apart, and World Peace was ejected after officials reviewed the tape.
World Peace, who changed his name last year, has been mostly well-behaved during his three seasons with the Lakers, yet he’ll always be most famous for his 86-game suspension for participating in the "Malice in the Palace" brawl between Detroit and Indiana players in the Palace of Auburn Hills stands while playing for Indiana in November 2004.
The Lakers pulled within one point on World Peace’s dunk, but fell apart after the ejection, managing just 14 points in the next 14 minutes.
NOTES: Matt Barnes played sparingly while nursing an apparent ankle injury for the Lakers. ... The Lakers missed their first eight 3-pointers before Blake’s 3 with 4:36 to play. ... Bryant wore no support on his knees, and Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions ditched the harness he has worn for several games on his sprained left shoulder. ... Derek Fisher got another loud ovation from his longtime Lakers fans when he checked in for the Thunder. The veteran point guard had five points. ... Jack Nicholson celebrated his 75th birthday in his usual courtside seat. Other fans near courtside included Denzel Washington, Will Ferrell, Mark Harmon, Ashton Kutcher, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Ferrara and Flea.
The Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol (16), of Spain, stands between Oklahoma City Thunder and other players after Lakers' Metta World Peace (15) was called for a double flagrant foul and ejected from the game in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday in Los Angeles. REED SAXON/Associated Press
Oklahoma City Thunder players stand over teammate James Harden, lower left, after receiving a flagrant double foul from Los Angeles Lakers' Metta World Peace, who was then ejected, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday in Los Angeles. REED SAXON/Associated Press