Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Eric Gordon #10 of the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on April 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 104-96 behind a late scoring flurry by Bryant.
The Los Angeles Lakers won a must-win game against the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night at Staples Center with Kobe Bryant playing as only Kobe Bryant can, and Metta World Peace making a heroic comeback.
After getting in a slight fender bender earlier in the day, Earl Clark was told to start for the 34th time this season. Since Pau Gasol returned from a foot injury, Clark has been relegated to bench duties.
Only 3:03 into the first quarter, Clark picked up his second foul, and Metta World Peace entered the game to a roar from the sold out Staples Center crowd. For the next 7:46 of game time, World Peace provided energy, defense, and toughness.
When he made a 3-pointer, the crowd went wild.
With World Peace on the floor, the Lakers opened up a five-point lead in the first quarter.
World Peace would not play the entire second quarter, and the Lakers went into the halftime break trailing 50-45.
As much as Gasol was the Lakers’ biggest matchup advantage for the Lakers throughout the night, World Peace’s attitude sparked the Lakers in the second half. After Clark picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the third quarter, World Peace stripped down and entered the contest.
The Lakers trailed by six when World Peace entered the game this time around. World Peace embodied the fighting spirit of the Lakers by earning a double technical and not backing down to the challenge of Xavier Henry.
Yup, he was back.
The Hornets were not going to let the Lakers walk away with an easy win, but the Lakers would be fighting all the way to until the final buzzer sounded on the game and on the season. World Peace did not undergo knee surgery and return to the floor in less than two weeks simply to play.
He returned to help the team win.
When World Peace left the floor in the third quarter, the Lakers were up by two points. Never mind that he only had four points and one rebound through three quarters. His presence contributed to the Lakers’ spirit.
In the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant came out guns blazing. Hitting his first three shots including back-to-back 3-pointers, the crowd began to chant “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!”
Bryant had only played 29 of a possible 36 minutes through three quarters, so he was fresher than he had been for any of the past four games. Of course, he was ready to go for the final quarter. He started out by making his first three shots and had 10-fourth quarter points less than four minutes into the final period.
He would finish with 23 points in the fourth quarter. The Hornets only scored 26 in the deciding quarter.
With Utah losing earlier in the night, the Lakers are back in the eighth spot and are guaranteed a trip to the playoffs if they win their last four games.