Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace will serve the final game of his seven-game suspension on Thursday night in Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
That means if the Lakers eliminate Denver, World Peace will be eligible to play against the Thunder in the second round, revving an already amped atmosphere at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Games 1 and 2.
World Peace was suspended for seven games — the final regular-season game and the first six postseason games — for elbowing Thunder sixth man James Harden on the left side of his face on April 22 at Staples Center. Harden missed the final two regular-season games with a concussion.
The Lakers hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series against Denver. If the Lakers win the series on Thursday, Game 1 against the Thunder will be Saturday.
Had the Lakers swept the Nuggets, World Peace would not have been eligible for Games 1 and 2 in OKC.
Because the Thunder doesn't even know if it will play the Lakers, players and coaches essentially had no reaction to playing a full series against World Peace.
“I haven't thought about it much, to be honest with you,” forward Nick Collison said Wednesday. “I'm sure it will be a storyline if that were to happen, but we don't even know who we're playing yet, so there's no sense thinking about that too much. We're trying to focus on us and whoever we play and be ready for them.”
Asked about the potential atmosphere in Game 1, OKC coach Scott Brooks said, “I think our atmosphere is the best in the league. We've got great fans. Our building is always good, no matter what night of the week, no matter who we play. Playing in the second round obviously there's going to be maybe a little more excitement.
“Really, we're focusing on both teams. Not one time have I talked about the Lakers or the Nuggets to our guys, because we don't know. We don't want to waste time, waste their energy focusing on a team we might not even play.”