Lakers Vs. Thunder: L.A. Erases 17-Point 4th Quarter Deficit In Win

The Lakers have a magic number of one to clinch their fifth straight Pacific Division title.

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Metta World Peace Gives Statement To Reporters Following Ejection From Sunday's Game

Just before halftime in Sunday's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Metta World Peace threw an elbow that connected with James Harden and knocked both players out of the game. World Peace was ejected as a result of a flagrant two call, while Harden was unable to continue playing.

Following the game, World Peace made a statement, but did not take questions. The Lakers forward claims the incident was "unintentional." Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register relayed the statement via Twitter.

I got really emotional, really excited. And it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with the unintentional elbow.

I hope he's OK. The Thunder, they're playing for a championship this year. So I really hope he's OK, and I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden. Such a great game, and it was unfortunate so much emotion was going on at that time.

Ding states that World Peace was advised by Lakers spokesman John Black not to field any questions. He will likely face disciplinary action for the incident.

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Lakers Vs. Thunder Final Score: Kobe Bryant, Jordan Hill Lead Unlikely Comeback In 114-106 Win

Kobe Bryant had 26 points, six rebounds, and eight assists, and hit the go-ahead shot with 52.5 seconds remaining to lead the Los Angeles Lakers over the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-106 in double overtime on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Bryant made just two of his first 13 shots, but made seven of his last 13 shots in the fourth quarter and both overtime periods.

The LaKers have a magic number of one to clinch their fifth straight Pacific Division title.

The Lakers (41-24) trailed by as many as 17 points with 11:11 remaining in the game, but a 26-8 run fueled largely with Devin Ebanks, Steve Blake, and Jordan Hill on the floor gave the Lakers the lead. Bryant hit a running three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Lakers their first lead of the second half with 1:21 remaining.

Russell Westbrook hit two free throws to give the Thunder the lead, but Bryant hit another three-pointer with 51.9 seconds left for a 91-89 lead. Two more Westbrook free throws tied the game, and then Bryant and Kevin Durant traded missed shots to end the quarter and send the game into overtime.

Pau Gasol had 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, and missed his second triple double of the week by just one assist. Hill had his best game in purple and gold with 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds off the bench.

Durant had 35 points and eight rebounds to lead the Thunder. Westbrook had 14 points and 10 assists, on 3-of-22 shooting. Serge Ibaka had 18 points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocks for the Thunder (46-18), who are battling San Antonio for the top seed in the Western Conference.

James Harden had 14 points off the bench in the first half for Oklahoma City but did not return after suffering a concussion in the final minutes of the first half after taking a flagrant elbow to the head from Metta World Peace, who was ejected.

The Lakers have one more regular season game left, and have three days off before that finale in Sacramento Thursday night against the Kings.

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Lakers Vs. Thunder Game Score: Metta World Peace Ejected, L.A. Trails 52-47 At Halftime

James Harden and Serge Ibaka thrived in the first half, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 52-47 halftime lead over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. The Lakers fell behind by as many as 11 points before making a second quarter run to get back in the game, but the talk of the half was an elbow by Metta World Peace in the closing minutes.

Harden scored 14 points off the bench, but had to leave with 1:37 remaining in the second quarter after catching an elbow from World Peace after the Lakers small forward had a slam dunk to cut the Thunder lead to just one point. World Peace was given a flagrant two foul, which came with an automatic ejection.

A suspension seems likely for the former Ron Artest, which could include missing playoff games since there is only one regular season game remaining after Sunday.

The timing was unfortunate because World Peace led the Lakers comeback and led the team with 12 points and five rebounds in 18 first half minutes. Kobe Bryant scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting for the Lakers, who shot 41.3% (19 for 46) from the field.

Ibaka had 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds in the first half, and Kevin Durant had 14 points and four rebounds for the Thunder, who shot 41.9% (18 for 43) in the opening half.

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Lakers Vs. Thunder Game Preview: Proving Ground For L.A.

LOS ANGELES -- A preview of Sunday's showdown at Staples Center, by Jonathan Mathis...

This is a chance for the Los Angeles Lakers to prove they are real. And there's no better way to convince the entire world than on Sunday, when the Lakers face the Oklahoma City Thunder, arguably the team to beat in the Western Conference.

With two games remaining on the regular season schedule that officially ends on Thursday at Sacramento, the Lakers (40-24) are seven games back of first place in the West, which they won't finish at the top but can dominate against the Thunder in the final home game. The team who went 5-2 in Kobe Bryant's absence was routed in San Antonio. Two days removed from a demoralizing loss, the Lakers as a team can redeem such an uninspiring disappointment at Staples Center in their traditional white jerseys, and avoid going 1-5 against San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

What to watch for on Sunday is how well the Lakers match against the Thunder, a powerful team in contention for a possible NBA Finals appearance. The last time these two teams met, the Lakers were embarrassed in their 103-92 loss. If the Lakers lose, they would no longer own supremacy in the Pacific Division. The Clippers, a crosstown rival, could seize full control with three games left, and the Lakers haven't been on top of their game against the Thunder.

That is not a good sign. Every time they take center stage it is hardly competitive, but to stay ahead in a footrace for the Pacific Division crown, then the Lakers must beat Oklahoma City. It's hard not to envision the Lakers losing, now that players are standing around watching the Kobe Show after he returned from a shin injury. In prior memory, the Thunder outhustled, outran and outplayed the Lakers on their home floor. The Lakers are thankful for the return of their superstar, and with Bryant on the floor, consecutive wins to end the season are likely. But the flawed Lakers will have to overcome weaknesses to beat the Thunder.

1. Stop relying on the Kobe Show: It's too often that the Lakers become too complacent and lackadaisical with Bryant on the court. The starting five, including the bench -- whenever Bryant is not taking a breather -- stands around and watches in an uninspired performance. The common style seen routinely by the Lakers is to give the ball to Bryant, then watch him produce magic single-handedly with his ability to score.

2. Tighten up on D: It's imperative for the Lakers to lock down the perimeter and force the Thunder to attempt awkward shots that would detain and disrupt the best scorer in the league, Kevin Durant. It's the primary focus, after all, turning up the defensive intensity and even more so in the second half. The hiring of Coach Mike Brown was simply to install defensive principles in switching on pick-and-rolls and defending the paint.

This, it seems, will slow down explosive guard Russell Westbrook, who is not intimidated by the two seven-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. He won't hesitate to drive the lane for an easy two and will draw the foul. If Gasol and Bynum -- in favor of the Lakers -- with their size and strength -- raise their level of play, they can be x-factors and stop dribble penetration of guards and control the temple. The Lakers front line is a tough task for Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, although they both are troublesome. In recent weeks, the Lakers defense has slightly improved.

3. Ramon Sessions needs to play like a legitimate point guard. The difference for the Lakers offensively has been the acquisition of Ramon Sessions. For the first time in years, the Lakers finally addressed their point guard position, stealing a well-rounded Sessions before the trade deadline. From a basketball standpoint, Sessions is the best point guard the Lakers have ever seen since Magic Johnson. He can move off the ball, create plays and get his teammates involved, as the Lakers are quicker and more aggressive.

It's strange with a veteran guard Derek Fisher wearing a Thunder uniform, and as he runs the point, Sessions may have an advantage with his quickness and youth. In the grand scheme of things, Sessions can handle the ball and move off the ball in which Gasol and Bynum can get touches in the post.

4. Consistency is vital: There’s no question the Lakers are a playoff team, but they may not have enough consistency to match against Oklahoma City. The inconsistencies have undermined the Lakers, and lacking in that department doesn't resolve the problem going into the postseason. A good start would be defeating the Thunder by staying aggressive, diving for loose balls, and not allowing second-chance points.

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Lakers Vs. Thunder, NBA On ABC: Starting Lineups

There is an old saying that the third time is the charm, and the Los Angeles Lakers certainly hope that is true on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers welcome Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder to town, looking for their first win in three tries against the Thunder this season.

Durant scored 33 points to lead the Thunder to a 100-85 win in Oklahoma City on February 23, then Westbrook returned home to Los Angeles to score 36 points in a 102-93 win at Staples Center on March 29. Sunday is the regular season home finale for the Lakers, and here are the probable starting lineups:

Thunder (46-17)

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook

Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha

Small Forward: Kevin Durant

Power Forward: Serge Ibaka

Center: Kendrick Perkins

Lakers (40-24)

Point Guard: Ramon Sessions

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

Small Forward: Metta World Peace

Power Forward: Pau Gasol

Center: Andrew Bynum

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Lakers Vs. Thunder: NBA On ABC Game Time, TV Info And More

The Los Angeles Lakers have just two games remaining in their regular season, including Sunday's home finale against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant returned to the Lakers Friday night in San Antonio, but the Lakers were handled pretty easily by the Spurs 121-97. The Lakers look to bounce back on Sunday, and here are the relevant details of their Western Conference showdown.

Records: Lakers (40-24); Thunder (46-17)

Location: Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles

Time: 12:30 p.m. PDT

TV: ABC, with Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy calling their second straight Lakers game.

Home vs. Road: The Lakers are 25-7 at home this season, while the Thunder are 21-11 on the road.

Going Streaking: Oklahoma City has won both battles with the Lakers so far this season, and the Thunder have won three straight games against the Lakers dating back to last season.

Playoff Positioning: The Lakers are a half-game ahead of the Clippers for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, while the Thunder are a hlaf-game behind San Antonio for the No. 1 seed. If the Thunder and Lakers end up No. 1 and No. 4 (more possible with a Thunder win Sunday) or No. 2 and No. 3 seeds (more possible with a Lakers win Sunday), these two could meet in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Old Friend Alert: 37-year old Derek Fisher, who was traded by the Lakers to Houston on March 15, has averaged 4.3 points and 19.9 minutes per game in for Oklahoma City in 17 contests, shooting just 30.3% from the field, including 31.0% from three-point range.

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NBA Playoffs 2012: Pacific Divsion Champ Will Likely Play Dallas Mavericks Or Denver Nuggets

The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are in a close battle for the NBA Pacific Division crown, with mere days remaining in the season. Whichever crosstown rival ends up on top in the division, it appears clear that as the No. 3 seed they would battle the No. 6 seed, either the Dallas Mavericks or Denver Nuggets.

Rudy Gay scored 21 points to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a home win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, giving Memphis 39 wins on the season. The Grizzlies are assured no worse than the No. 5 seed, and are still technically alive for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Both the Lakers and Clippers won their season series with the Grizzlies, giving them the tiebreaker over Memphis should the two teams tie. The Lakers' magic number to clinch home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs is just one, while the Clippers' magic number for their first home court advantage in franchise history is two.

It is still possible for Memphis (39-25) to grab the No. 3 seed, but it involves Memphis winning both remaining games, the Lakers losing both of their remaining games, and the Clippers losing at least two of their final three contests.

But the win for Memphis also locked in Dallas and Denver for the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds. The Nuggets picked up a 118-107 road win in Phoenix on Saturday behind 29 points and 10 assists from Ty Lawson, while the Mavericks without Jason Kidd were busy losing 93-83 on the road in Chicago, against the Bulls, who have the best record in the NBA.

Dallas (36-29) won their season series with Denver (35-28), giving them the tiebreaker, so the Mavericks' have a magic number of two. Denver, which has three regular season games remaining compared to just one for Dallas, has a magic number of six to clinch the No. 6 seed.

Here are the updated Western Conference standings through Saturday night:

NBA Western Conference Standings
Seed Team W-L Pct GB Remaining Games
1 San Antonio
46-16 .742 --- 2 home / 2 road
2 Oklahoma City
46-17 .730 ½ 2 home / 1 road
3 Lakers
40-24 .625 7 1 home / 1 road
4 Clippers 39-24 .619 1 home / 2 road
5 Memphis 39-25 .609 8 2 home / 0 road
6 Denver 35-28 .556 11½ 1 home / 2 road
7 Dallas
36-29 .554 11½ 0 home / 1 road
8 Utah* 34-30 .531 13 2 home / 0 road
9 Phoenix 33-31 .516 14 1 home / 1 road
9 Houston 33-31 .516 14 1 home / 1 road
Through games of April 21

For more news and notes on Lakers basketball, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll. For all your Clippers information, be sure to read Clips Nation.

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