After the Los Angeles Lakers stunningly poor performance against the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs, it's clearer than ever before that they are worse off without Metta World Peace.
Don't misconstrue that statement as a vindication of World Peace's vicious elbow thrown at the Thunder's James Harden and the ensuing seven-game suspension—a suspension that could have been made longer in my opinion.
Rather, there's a glaring void on both ends of the court without World Peace in the Lakers lineup.
Metta provides both the tangibles and intangibles that the Lakers are in need of in their series against Denver. Built like a brick, World Peace stands 6'7", 260 lbs. He's the team's enforcer and plays with a dynamism on both ends of the court that can inspire and motivate his teammates.
One of the more noticeable issues plaguing this Lakers squad since World Peace's suspension has been the complete lack of offensive production from their small forwards. Devin Ebanks is inexperienced and playing in his first playoff series, while Matt Barnes epitomizes inconsistency.
Although World Peace struggled in the regular season offensively, averaging just 7.7 point per game, he really found his rhythm in April, averaging over 14 points per game for that month. He also seemed to have a renewed self-confidence, stepping up and producing after Kobe Bryant went down with an injury.
His most formidable impact has always been as a defender, and as I mentioned earlier, his efforts could be paying dividends against this Denver squad. As ESPN blogger Andy Kamenetzky noted, "He was the leader of two efforts (Dec. 31, then April 13) limiting Danilo Gallinari to seven points and could be employed to check Nuggets big (Al Harrington), medium (Wilson Chandler, health presumed) or small (Andre Miller)."
I can't speak for all Lakers fans, but there don't appear to be many people who approve of his volatile nature or the incident with Harden. However, the true value of his World Peace's play has become evident in his absence, and the Lakers are eagerly awaiting his return.
They need him now more than ever.
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