Artest’s ugly looking bank shot lifts Lakers
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES – 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 collected the rebound and raised to his tiptoes while throwing up a hideous shot that somehow went 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 a little short,” Artest said. “And it was 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.
The Lakers led 101-96 with 1:38 remaining, but Nash hit another jumper and Artest missed twice, the home crowd yelling in frustration with each open brick.
The Suns had three looks at a 3-point shot in the final seconds, but two missed before Richardson missed so badly that he banked it in from a long step behind the line.