Last Lakers’ offering leaves Suns in dark
Posted: Friday, May 28, 2010 9:14 pm
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ron Artest stumbled into Los Angeles Lakers playoff lore with one remarkable bank shot to beat the Phoenix Suns.
Artest rambled into the lane and beat the buzzer with a wild shot after rebounding Kobe Bryant’s miss, and the Lakers edged the Suns 103-101 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, but the improbable hero of Game 5 is the only new player on the roster of the defending champions, who are one win away from the NBA finals.
“I missed a lot of layups during the regular season,” Artest said. “I’m just staying with it and trying to stay focused and play my part, see what happens.”
Something incredible happened: Artest’s basket completed a 2-for-9 shooting night, an otherwise awful performance redeemed by one supremely heady offensive rebound.
Jason Richardson banked in a straightaway 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to tie it for the Suns. Phoenix clawed back from an 18-point deficit in the second half with a superb game by Steve Nash, who had 29 points and 11 assists.
Bryant then missed a difficult shot from the sideline, but Artest caught the ball and raised to his tiptoes while throwing up a hideous shot that somehow went in.
“It means a lot for him,” Bryant said. “I think for him emotionally, it’s a big boost. … Once I released the ball, I saw Ron sneaking in.”
Artest, who missed two open jumpers just a few seconds earlier, grabbed Bryant in a joyous bear hug while the Staples Center crowd went nuts.
“I thought Kobe got fouled on the shot, so I figured it was going to be short,” Artest said. “And it was a little short.”
Game 6 is Saturday night in Phoenix, where the Lakers can clinch the chance to play for their 16th championship.
“Everything is OK,” Nash said. “We can’t knock a great effort. I think we deserved this game.”
Led by Nash’s stirring second-half effort, the Suns hacked away at Los Angeles’ lead throughout the fourth quarter.
Phoenix trimmed its deficit to 95-94 when Nash converted a three-point play and then fed Amare Stoudemire for a layup that barely beat the shot clock with 2:52 left.
Lamar Odom had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who led 101-96 with 90 seconds to play before Nash hit another jumper and Artest missed twice, the home crowd yelling in frustration with each open brick.
“He has an uncanny knack of doing things, and sometimes it just works out,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He just has a knack for being around crucial plays.”
Stoudemire scored 19 points for the Suns, who had three looks at a 3-point shot in the final seconds. Nash and Richardson both missed.
“We just didn’t quite finish the game,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “I have no complaints. They played great. We hung in. We did a great job against Kobe on the last shot, just didn’t come up with the rebound. To me, it’s a great effort by us, and they know we’re not going to go away.”
The Lakers already won on a last-second layup earlier in the postseason, when Pau Gasol sent home the Oklahoma City Thunder with an offensive rebound and a score in Game 6 of the first round.
Published in The Messenger 5.28.10