LOS ANGELES — Metta World Peace delivered the body blow and Kobe Bryant the knockout.
Bryant made a fadeaway jumper and a pair of free throws late in the second overtime Sunday afternoon at Staples Center to help the Los Angeles Lakers emerge with a testy 114-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Long after World Peace had been ejected for elbowing James Harden in the head late in the second quarter while celebrating a dunk, Bryant’s heroics gave the Lakers their first victory over the Thunder and an important measure of momentum heading into the playoffs.
Bryant’s jumper gave the Lakers a 106-104 lead with 52 seconds left and his free throws increased the advantage to 108-104 with 36 seconds remaining.
The Lakers had been a combined 1-4 against Western Conference heavyweights Oklahoma City and the San Antonio Spurs before Sunday.
Bryant finished with 26 points on nine-for-26 shooting for the Lakers, who wiped out a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Devin Ebanks had a pair of crucial steals in the final minute of the second overtime and Jordan Hill provided a big lift off the bench with 14 points and 15 rebounds, far exceeding his previous cumulative production in a Lakers uniform.
Starting Lakers center Andrew Bynum did not play in the fourth quarter or in either overtime.
Kevin Durant had 35 points for Oklahoma City on a laborious 11-for-34 shooting. Initially galvanized by the absence of Harden, who did not return after taking the shot fromMetta World Peace, the Thunder wilted in the fourth quarter.
Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder.
With one swing of his elbow, World Peace might have forever changed the tenor of the Lakers-Oklahoma City rivalry.
After dunking on a breakaway and thumping his chest in triumph, World Peace flung his elbow into the side of Harden’s head, sending the Thunder guard tumbling to the court with 1 minute 37 seconds left in the second quarter.
Several Oklahoma City players immediately approached World Peace and had to be separated by officials. After watching the replay on a courtside monitor, officials ruled it a flagrant-two foul on World Peace and ejected him, depriving the Lakers of an energized player who had 12 points and five rebounds in 18 first-half minutes.
World Peace, who changed his name before the season supposedly to reflect a more tranquil demeanor, received a loud ovation on his way off the floor.
The reinvigorated Thunder scored four unanswered points to end the half while Ibaka made things miserable for the Lakers, blocking back-to-back shots by Bynum and Ebanks.
(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times
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