By GREG BEACHAM
LOS ANGELES (AP) METTA WORLD PEACE had the ball in his hands with the crowd on its feet for the Lakers’ final possession in what might be his final game at Staples Center.
And he let the shot clock run out.
“There was no need to (shoot),” he said. “We won the game. Five in a row. This is great.”
Leave it to a man who named himself World Peace to remind everybody what’s really important, even on a night dedicated to celebrating him.
World Peace scored a team-leading 18 points in the second half, and Los Angeles extended its longest winning streak in four years to five games with a 108-96 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.
Although he hasn’t announced his retirement and would like to play basketball next year, World Peace got several standing ovations down the stretch from a crowd celebrating the final on-court link to the Lakers’ 16th championship team.
The 37-year-old veteran of 17 NBA seasons made his 840th career NBA start and hit four 3-pointers down the stretch, thrilling his younger teammates and setting off arena-wide chants of his name.
But when he could have punctuated his career with one last shot, he didn’t do it.
Like just about everything the former Ron Artest does, his possible final act in a gold Lakers uniform contained elements of intelligence, nobility and absurdist comedy.
Coach Luke Walton would have loved it if World Peace had taken the last shot, but he understood why he didn’t.
“You don’t want to disrespect the other team at all,” Walton said. “Metta was obviously doing that out of respect for (Pelicans coach) Alvin (Gentry) and those guys. … He’s a perfect example of what a professional athlete should be.”
Pelicans: Cousins and Davis watched the game from New Orleans’ bench.
Lakers: They played without D’ANGELO RUSSELL, who went home to Louisville. Russell played a few hours after his grandmother’s death on Sunday and hit the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. … Staples Center was crawling with legendary big men. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a standing ovation ahead of his 70th birthday on Sunday. Bill Walton watched his son from courtside in a purple Lakers T-shirt, and Bill Russell also caught the game in a courtside seat.
BRANDON INGRAM and JORDAN CLARKSON had 15 points apiece for the Lakers (26-55), whose longest winning streak since 2013 has pushed them past Phoenix in the overall NBA standings and left them assured of finishing with the league’s third-worst record.
If the pingpong balls don’t give Los Angeles one of the top three picks in the draft lottery on May 16, the Lakers will lose their first-round selection to Philadelphia under the terms of their trade for Steve Nash five years ago. If they lose this pick, they’ll also lose their 2019 first-round pick to Orlando.
PELS CHECK OUT
Davis sat for a second straight game with a sore left knee, and Cousins missed his third straight game with heel tendinitis. The rest of the team didn’t do much, according to their coach.
“We didn’t play hard enough to win the game,” Gentry said. “Concentration was non-existent. We had no focus. We play an 82-game schedule. Not 80 games. Not 78 games. We weren’t there. We weren’t even close tonight.”
WORLD PEACE OUT?
While World Peace didn’t quite match Kobe Bryant’s 60-point finale last year, he got wild ovations in pregame introductions and again whenever he did anything interesting. He didn’t score in the first half, but got his 1,716th and 1,717th career steals to move past Ron Harper for 22nd place in NBA history.
World Peace joined the Lakers in 2009 and immediately played a major role on their 16th NBA championship team, hitting a 3-pointer that turned out to be the last field goal in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against Boston.
World Peace changed his name in 2011 and stayed with the Lakers until 2013. He spent the next two years in New York, China and Italy before rejoining the Lakers in 2015.
He surprisingly made the Lakers’ roster again this season to serve as a veteran mentor and mature presence in the locker room – an assignment that would have been shocking to anyone who only knew him as the hard-nosed defensive specialist who got the longest suspension in NBA history for brawling in the stands at a Pacers-Pistons game in November 2004.
“I didn’t think I would last this long,” World Peace said before the game.
Pelicans: At Trail Blazers on Wednesday in their season finale.
Lakers: At Warriors on Wednesday for their season finale.