Los Angeles Lakers: Christmas Day

Metta World Peace keeps Lakers on track

December, 25, 2012
12/25/12
6:38
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- So, who should get the credit for the Los Angeles Lakers' current five-game winning streak that finally has them back at .500 after a rousing 100-94 win over the New York Knicks on Christmas Day?

Steve Nash for finally making his comeback and dropping 20 assists against just six turnovers in his first two games? Kobe Bryant for his sustained excellence, putting up 30 or more points in his ninth straight game with his efficient 34 points on 14-for-24 shooting against the Knicks? Pau Gasol for staying the course and carving out a niche in the offense that was uncomfortable at first but now has him doling out six assists in each of his last two games? Dwight Howard for battling through his back injury and playing in 100 percent of the Lakers' games this season even though his health is really somewhere around 75 or 80 percent? Mike D'Antoni for sticking to his vision for the team even when they went just 4-9 in the first 13 games after he took over?

[+] EnlargePeace-Anthony
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesMetta World Peace's defense on Carmelo Anthony on Tuesday was key in the Lakers' victory over the Knicks.
There are arguments to be made for all of those guys, but it's tough to imagine the Lakers having the type of success they are right now without the utter transformation of Metta World Peace.

He has gone from an unpredictable, out-of-shape, amnesty clause-bound, washed-up veteran to a rediscovered cog that keeps churning no matter what adversity the Lakers have played through this season.

World Peace was at it again on Christmas, spreading his particular brand of basketball joy on both ends of the floor, scoring 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench, while also keeping Carmelo Anthony in check as best he could on defense.

"I want to say it's inspired, but this is what he's been doing the whole year," Nash said. "He pounds on the best player on the other team. He gets his hands on a lot of balls. Rebounds. Scores. Makes threes. I mean, he's playing phenomenal, he's a great teammate and he's a huge part of why we're able to win."

World Peace is averaging 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.6 steals during the Lakers' five-game winning streak, and in the midst of it, right after grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds against the Sixers, he was asked by D'Antoni to come off the bench.

He could have whined. He could have pouted. He could have outright laughed. "Wait, you're starting Darius Morris over me?"

But the only noise World Peace has been making these days has been vocal leadership for a team that needed a kick in the pants to get things going.

"Metta has been a lot, lot more vocal," Bryant said. "A lot more vocal in helping me with the leadership and making sure guys have that intensity and attention to detail and the toughness. He's been extremely, extremely vocal."

The Lakers had all but bottomed out five games ago against the Knicks, falling behind by as many as 26 points in an embarrassing nationally televised loss.

Some of that blame for that game had to fall on World Peace, it was his man Anthony who dominated the first quarter with 22 points, taking wide open 3-pointers hardly contested by slow closeouts.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.1
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.1