Kobe Bryant was the headliner but Metta World Peace stole the show.
In a game the Lakers had to have it took a total team effort, an improbable fourth quarter comeback, a flagrant elbow from Metta World Peace plus plenty of clutch moments from Kobe to seal a 114-106 double OT victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
First things first. We can’t talk about this one without mentioning the ejection of World Peace…make that Ron Artest. This was a vintage Ron Ron moment that will be talked about for some time especially if the Lakers have to go into the playoffs without Metta.
James Harden was killing the Lake Show in the first half, well on his way to another stellar performance sure to earn that sixth man of the year honor. Then Metta’s elbow happened. At first it appeared a moment of over exuberance. The replay showed a premeditated move that left Harden concussed and World Peace ejected.
If Metta’s move was meant to energize the Lakers it didn’t’, at least not initially.
World Peace was ejected just before the half and come the start of the fourth L.A. was in the hole to the tune of 17.
Making matters even worse Kobe couldn’t buy a bucket, Andrew Bynum was ineffective and Ramon Sessions was a complete non-factor. To his credit, Mike Brown flashed some brass stones to turn the tide of this contest.
The Lakers dialed up the D in the fourth, playing a physical brand of ball led by Jordan Hill of all people.
For whatever inexplicable reason, Brown rode Hill for the most significant PT he’s seen as a Laker and the big man responded. Hill’s 14-point, 15-board performance made Bynum a spectator and helped the Lakers erase their large deficit.
Oh, and KB24 also found his stroke just in time too.
You just can’t say enough about the basketball genius of Bryant. He hit big shot after big shot dropping 26 on 26 shots most of which where highly contested. After an ugly start Bryant got it going late when his team needed him most.
Of course Kobe didn’t do it alone. Pau Gasol nearly triple-doubled his pleasure again going for 20, 14 and 9 in 49 minutes on the court.
Steve Blake even got in the act hitting some huge shots including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Blake’s 13-point, 5-dime effort gave Sessions a seat next to Bynum for most of the fourth and all of OT.
While L.A. was lights out on offense it was the inspired defense that ultimately netted this signature win. Sure, Kevin Durant dropped 35 but it came on a highly inefficient 11 of 34 shooting. Metta’s fill in Devin Ebanks gets a lot of credit for making KD work for every shot he put up.
The man that usually kills the Lakers, Russell Westbrook, never got into the game. His 14 points and 10 assists were fools gold considering the Leuzinger alum was 3 of 22 shooting.
Coming into the contest the Lakers had yet to prove they could contend with the elite of the Western Conference. One win won’t change that perception but it did display the blueprint for beating the Thunder.
Should these two meet again it will be in the playoffs. I’m not here to say that the Lakers can win that series but there is at least a proven formula to beat OKC. Hopefully it doesn’t take World Peace going Bones Jones on Harden every time but for today it was necessary. Of all the wins the Lakers have racked up this season none was bigger than today’s. Truly a signature win that couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
Tags: Andrew Bynum Bones Jones Devin Ebanks James Harden Jordan Hill Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant Metta World Peace Mike Brown Oklahoma City Thunder Pau Gasol Ramon Sessions Ron Artest Russell Westbrook Steve Blake