EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace was suspended seven games by the NBA on Tuesday for throwing a vicious elbow at Oklahoma City's James Harden, meaning the Los Angeles starter likely will miss six playoff games.
World Peace was ejected from Sunday's game against the Thunder for striking Harden in the head, giving him a concussion. World Peace claimed the contact was an accidental, overzealous celebration of a dunk.
World Peace will miss the Lakers' season finale on Thursday at Sacramento and the next six games for which he is eligible. The playoffs open Saturday, and Los Angeles is likely to be the Western Conference's third seed.
FILE - In this Sunday, April 22, 2012, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace gives an elbow to Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden, rear, earning him a double flagrant foul and ejection
Commissioner David Stern alluded to the former Ron Artest's history of on-court altercations in announcing the penalty in a statement.
"The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area," Stern said in a statement. "We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations."
The suspension is Artest's third career ban of at least seven games. He got an 86-game suspension in 2004 for jumping into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs to fight fans, and he served a seven-game suspension in 2007 for his no-contest plea on a domestic violence charge.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team "accepted" the suspension.
Celtics 78, Heat 66
BOSTON (AP) - Sasha Pavlovic scored 12 of his of his season-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, leading a group of Boston Celtics reserves in a victory against the Miami Heat as both teams rested their top players.
Thunder 118, Kings 110
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Kevin Durant scored 32 points, reserve Daequan Cook had all 19 of his points in the fourth quarter and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings to win their first game since top James Harden took an elbow to the head.
Hawks 109, Clippers 102
ATLANTA (AP) - Joe Johnson scored 28 points, including a wild 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Atlanta Hawks held on for a victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.