For the second straight game while playing against the Thunder at Staples Center, Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace was involved in a physical altercation.
On April 22, World Peace elbowed James Harden in the face and received a seven-game suspension from the NBA. Harden missed the final two regular-season games with a concussion.
In Game 3 on Friday night, World Peace and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook battled for a loose ball on the floor. Westbrook had possession and swung his left arm behind World Peace's left leg. World Peace then dropped his left knee into Westbrook's midsection.
In Games 1 and 2, Lakers guard Ramon Sessions had just four points and shot 2 for 10 from the field.
At the 6:09 mark of the first quarter in Game 3, Sessions already was 3 for 3 from the floor and had six points against Westbrook as the Lakers jumped out to a 16-4 lead.
Eight seconds later, Thunder coach Scott Brooks replaced Westbrook with Derek Fisher. Brooks explained in a television interview after the first quarter he replaced Westbrook because he felt his team needed better energy.
While sitting at the end of the bench, a disinterested Westbrook stared into the crowd for several possessions when the Lakers had the ball at the opposite end of the court.
Westbrook returned to the game at the start of the second quarter and apparently got the message, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds in the period.
There were three technical fouls called in the first half – Westbrook, World Peace and Kendrick Perkins. Perkins, who had 12 technicals during the regular season (one shy of a one-game suspension), now has two technicals in the postseason. A one-game suspension is served after the seventh technical in the playoffs. … Keeping with its regular-season routine in back-to-back games, the Thunder will not have a shootaround session Saturday morning and instead will meet at their team hotel in Santa Monica to review video of Game 3 for roughly an hour. … No matter how quickly the two Western Conference semifinal series last, the earliest the Western Conference Finals will start is next Sunday. The latest the Western Conference Finals will start is May 29. … Thunder officials won't have to go far to scout the other Western Conference semifinal between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, who play Game 3 on Saturday at Staples Center at 2:30 p.m., seven hours before Game 4 between the Thunder and Lakers.
Bryant on the second-quarter skirmish between Westbrook and World Peace: “It's just good playoff basketball. It's nice to get a chance to be physical. You know, it feels good. Like a spa.”
NO LIMITS ON PERK
Perkins played 31 minutes, 45 seconds in Game 2 despite aggravating a right hip muscle strain in Game 1.
He had eight days to recover from initially suffering the injury on May 5 against the Dallas Mavericks while “sliding through a pick” in Game 4.
However, there will be no time for Perkins to rest with Games 3 and 4 being back-to-back on Friday and Saturday.
Brooks put no minute limitation on Perkins in Game 3. “That's something we definitely have to sit down (Saturday) and see how this game goes,” Brooks said. “He was good (in Game 2). I thought his movements were good. He was very active and physically he was fine and moving very well.”
Lakers forward Pau Gasol has won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his extensive charity work as a UNICEF ambassador.
The Spanish 7-footer is the second straight Lakers player to win the award. Ron Artest was given the award last year for his work in mental health awareness before he changed his name to World Peace.
Gasol has traveled the globe to raise awareness for UNICEF, primarily working on programs involving nutrition, education and health care for children. He has worked for UNICEF for seven years.
“It's a fitting award because at times he's known as a nice guy, but people don't appreciate the value he brings not only on the floor but off the floor to an organization,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said.