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Metta World Peace shows he can soar to top of Lakers' reserves

The forward, who is finding his way as the Lakers' sixth man, has 33 points in his last two games. However, he puts his work on defense ahead of any scoring he might do.

December 28, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Lakers forward Metta World Peace, right, speaks with Coach Mike Brown during the Lakers' victory over Utah on Tuesday. World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, has played well in the last two games.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace, right, speaks with Coach Mike Brown during… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Metta World Peace has been accused of a lot of things — wild shots, crazy ramblings, bad dance moves — but after one rousing moment Tuesday, a failure to launch won't be among the criticisms any time soon.

After faking a three-pointer late in the second quarter, World Peace drove past Utah's Derrick Favors and soared for a one-handed dunk that electrified the Staples Center crowd.

It was a symbolic snapshot for the forward who continues to take off as the leader of the Lakers' second unit.

World Peace finished the Lakers' 96-71 victory over the Jazz with 14 points and five rebounds, giving him 33 points in his last two games.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Jazz

That's his biggest two-game scoring spree since he combined for 33 points against Phoenix and the Clippers late in March. And it came in only his second and third games in his new role as the Lakers' sixth man.

"He's showing the ability to score for us," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said, "which is what we need from him with the bench that we have."

Indeed, a reserve corps that also includes Troy Murphy, Steve Blake, Jason Kapono and Andrew Goudelock isn't one that typically packs much scoring punch. But World Peace said his point total is a secondary concern.

"I had 19 points [Monday] and we lost. Who cares?" World Peace said. "Who cares if you average 30 in the playoffs but lose? This year there's going to be a lot of games where I'll probably have no points or two points but [am] hustling on defense, wasting all my energy on defense and it's going to look bad in the public eye."

World Peace certainly wasn't winning over many fans in the Lakers' two exhibition games, when he combined to make four of 21 shots, or in the opener against Chicago, when he scored four points on two-for-six shooting.

Not that it seemed to bother a player who said he doesn't have to score to be effective.

"I can get steals, I can get deflections, I can get stops, I can be in the right position on defense," World Peace said. "A lot of playing well is if you know how to execute a coach's defensive plan for 48 minutes."

Brown said he was impressed by World Peace's huddling his teammates during a break in the game, a sign of leadership. World Peace deflected the praise, calling Blake "the No. 1 leader" of the reserves.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol said World Peace's effectiveness was a function of a simplified offense under the first-year coach Brown as well as the increased obligations that come with directing the second unit.

"I think it's good for a player when a coaching staff gives you that kind of responsibility, that we rely on you, we trust you that you can lead this group and he has that security," Gasol said. "It's rewarding and it really helps your game because you know you have to deliver and they're counting on you."

Time to rest

The Lakers took Wednesday off, their first break since training camp started Dec. 9.

The rest was particularly welcome considering it came following the team's only back-to-back-to-back situation of the season.

"I feel a little tired," Kobe Bryant said, "but that's fine as long as the legs feel strong, which they do."

Gasol said he would use the time off to ice and massage his body.

World Peace seemed in need of some mental recharging late Tuesday night after struggling to recall the team the Lakers played the previous day.

"My goodness," he said. "Who did we play [Monday]? Sacramento?"

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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