This was the sort of performance that could have had everyone talking about Metta World Peace. Until one momentary lapse of reason (and one wild elbow) left everyone thinking about Ron Artest.
Late in the second quarter, World Peace powered his way past Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka to finish a fast break with a dunk. The score pulled the Lakers within a point of the visiting Thunder, 48-47, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half on Sunday. Trailing the play, Kobe Bryant pumped both fists as Peace slammed the ball home. The mercurial forward already had 12 points, 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 steals and an assist. As he began bounding back up the court after that dunk, Peace pounded his chest emphatically with his right fist. James Harden of the Thunder, meanwhile, was just getting back toward the basket and bumped into Peace. Although he didn't appear to be looking at Harden, Peace managed to land a swinging elbow to his head, dropping the Thunder star. Seemingly unaware -- or, even worse, unconcerned -- of the shot, Peace continued beating his chest as he moved toward his defensive end.
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Harden would remain on the court for some time as the officials looked at replays of the incident to determine proper punishment. Ultimately, Peace was ejected from the game after receiving a "flagrant foul 2." According to ESPN, World Peace issued a statement to reporters after the game about the incident during the second quarter.
"During that play I just dunked on (Kevin) Durant and (Serge) Ibaka and I got really emotional and excited and it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow," World Peace told reporters, per ESPN. "I hope he's OK. The Thunder, they're playing for a championship this year, so I hope that he's OK and I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden."
Will NBA Commissioner David Stern and the rest of the league office believe Peace's explanation? Could Peace be facing a lengthy suspension that stretches into the playoffs? Should he be?
The NBA player formerly known as Ron Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace before this season. As Artest, he played a key role in one of the most infamous moments in American sports, fighting with fans and opponents during the "Malice at the Palace" in 2004. Should Peace's NBA priors be held against him here?
After the Artest ejection, the Lakers fell behind the Thunder by as many as 18 points in the second half but managed to stage a rally and win in double overtime.