Just when it appeared the Clippers would dash the Lakers' hopes in securing third place in the Pacific Division, the purple & gold leaned on last hope.
That came in the form of World Peace.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown matched up the Lakers' defender with Clippers guard Chris Paul, hoping "to get some length on him to make him shoot over our hand." He did so despite World Peace nursing an unspecified ankle injury he says happened sometime in the Lakers' loss last week to Oklahoma City.
But World Peace made a crucial play that led to the Lakers' 113-108 victory Wednesday over the Clippers. With the Lakers leading 105-104 with 2:25 remaining, Paul stood at the top of the key, eager to take World Peace on one-on-one. Instead, World Peace swiped the ball out of Paul's hands, which set up Andrew Bynum making one of two free throws to extend the Lakers' lead to 106-104 with 1:54 remaining.
"I'm still able to move, but it was a little sore," World Peace said. "That being said, I'm OK. I can still move and I'm jumping better. I have more dunks this year than a long time."
He actually threw one down that gave the Lakers a 94-89 lead with 9:25 remaining. World Peace also remained effective in cutting across the lane and bumping Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, which instantly gave more room for Andrew Bynum to operate in the post. But his aforementioned defensive plays meant more. They also canceled out the two blunders he made on two later possessions where he lost the ball and allowed Paul to make a 5-foot jumper to close the gap at 108-106 with 42 seconds remaining. Still, following Kobe Bryant's 21-foot fallaway that cemented a 110-106 edge with 24 seconds left, World Peace gave little room on the next possession for Paul to throw up a contested 26-foot three-pointer that rimmed out.
"We don't want to do it for long stretches," Brown said. But we do in a tight ball game."
The strategy worked, despite World Peace still fighting through an ankle injury.
"I love guarding anybody who's the best player down the stretch throughout the whole game," World Peace said. "I got beat off the dribble the last couple of games, but once my ankle is better, that won't be an issue. I'm still quick enough to be a factor. I play the down screens better than anybody in the league right now."