To start their home slate and to end it, the Lakers won.
On Tuesday night they celebrated a player who earned an unlikely place in the franchise’s lore with a critical three-point shot in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals against the Boston Celtics. The young Lakers feted Metta World Peace with a 108-96 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
For the first time in four years, the Lakers are on a five-game winning streak.
“Part of it definitely was for Metta, but it’s fun to coach these guys when they’re playing the way they’ve been playing the last few weeks,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “When they’re playing with passion and to compete. When that happens as a coach you can sit back and enjoy that.”
World Peace started in what could be his last game at Staples Center. He made four three-pointers and finished with a team-high 18 points, all in the second half. It was the most he’d scored since November 2013, when he also had 18 points. Brandon Ingram added 15 points with five rebounds and six assists, Jordan Clarkson had 15 points. And the game ball went to World Peace.
“I’m gonna get everybody to sign it,” he said. “I’m gonna frame it. … I don’t think I ever experienced something like this. This is great. You failed and you’re still pushing, you push. You do it together.”
The Lakers are 26-55, and will finish 28th in the NBA regardless of what happens Wednesday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors. That means they will have about a 47% chance of being awarded a pick in the top three during next month’s draft lottery, making it more likely that their pick will drop out of the top three. If it falls to fourth or worse, that pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Percentage points don’t favor the Lakers next month, but they haven’t favored World Peace lately, either. For the past two seasons, Lakers management invited him to training camp, not expecting he’d make the team.
Against the Pelicans, the Lakers trailed for much of the first quarter. They finished it on a 7-0 run for a 26-25 lead, capped by a three-pointer by Larry Nance Jr. At halftime the Lakers led 57-53.
Clarkson hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the third quarter, but the star of that period was the oldest player on the floor. World Peace, 37, hustled his way to seven points and a standing ovation.
As the quarter closed, Ingram drove for a dunk and got fouled. He screamed after the play, showing the kind of emotion he rarely displays.
“It was Metta’s night,” Ingram said. “...It definitely brought a lot of emotion out of not only me but a lot of players on the basketball court.”
World Peace’s show was only beginning. In the fourth quarter his teammates looked for him every chance they could. At one point he missed a three-pointer that Corey Brewer rebounded and gave right back to him.
He scored 11 fourth-quarter points, electrifying the crowd, his bench and his coaches with every basket. He had the ball on the Lakers’ last possession but let the shot clock expire with the Lakers up 12.
World Peace admitted later that he thought about shooting, but he’d played nearly 25 minutes at that point, and he was tired.
He left the game smiling and refusing to concede this was it. World Peace has said repeatedly that he wants to play 20 years, but the odds are against him. Then again, it’s not the first time.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli