NBA Playoff Schedule 2012: Breaking Down Metta World Peace's Return Scenarios
That doesn't mean we know which game he'll return to.
If this first-round series goes the distance, World Peace would return on Saturday, May 12, when Los Angeles is scheduled to play a possible Game 7 against the Nuggets.
If the Lakers can finish the Nuggets off in Tuesday's Game 5 or or Thursday's Game 6, then Metta would return for either Game 2 or Game 1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder (respectively).
While conventional wisdom suggests the Lakers are better off finishing this series off and preserving their legs for Thunder, there's certainly a case to be made that a six-game series would allow Los Angeles to face Oklahoma City with World Peace in the lineup.
Mike Brown probably won't change his game plan to optimize his unpredictable forward's return date, but there's no doubt that his return will have an impact.
Here are the three scenarios in which World Peace could make his semi-triumphant return (assuming, of course, that the Lakers ultimately prevail against Denver).
Game 7 vs. Denver Nuggets (Saturday, May 12)
While World Peace would get a chance to shake off any rust before facing the Thunder, that's probably not worth putting the rest of the Lakers through another track meet against these up-tempo Nuggets.
Oklahoma City would also wind up with over a week of rest in this scenario, giving the young legs of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden the opportunity to look even younger.
If the Lakers find themselves in a Game 7 against Denver, World Peace may wind up making an important impact in the decisive game. As he got into better game shape over the course of the season, his play improved markedly—World Peace averaged more than 14 points a game in April.
Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (TBD)
This scenario would certainly pack the greatest punch when it comes to clichéd subtext. Given that it was James Harden's head that bore the brunt of World Peace's elbow, a return against the Thunder might give Scott Brook's club a little extra motivation (if there's any more motivation to be had at this point in the postseason).
The return would also give the Lakers a valuable defender to put on Durant and Harden. Even more importantly, it would give Los Angeles the kind of energy and hustle it could surely use against the younger, hungrier Thunder.
Game 2 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (TBD)
The Lakers would love to close the Nuggets out in five games, but there's at least some downside to doing so, on account of it costing World Peace Game 1 against the Thunder.
Some will contend the Lakers don't need him, and others will suggest the Thunder have a clear advantage at home either way. However, if Oklahoma City's sweep of the Dallas Mavericks taught us anything, it's that the Thunder aren't exactly invincible at home.
Yes, they beat the Mavericks twice in Oklahoma City, but only by a combined four points. If the Lakers lose a close contest in Game 1 without World Peace, we'll have to wonder in hindsight if World Peace could have made a difference.
Still, the Lakers would be at full strength for the rest of the series, including their home games. That would still give them plenty of shots at the Thunder with World Peace at their side.
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