Lakers rebound, block out Suns
Artest beats clock to put LA up, 3-2
LOS ANGELES — Ron Artest became a part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff lore with a 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, last night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists for the Lakers, but Artest was the improbable hero of Game 5 with just his second basket of the night in an otherwise awful performance.
Jason Richardson banked in a straightaway 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to tie it for the Suns, who rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half.
Bryant missed a difficult shot from the corner, but Artest collected the rebound and raised to his tiptoes to throw 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.
Game 6 is tomorrow night in Phoenix, where the Lakers can clinch the chance to play for their 16th championship.
“It’s going to be tough but we’re looking forward to it,’’ Bryant said.
Steve Nash had 29 points and 11 assists in the Suns’ stirring second-half effort. Phoenix hacked away at Los Angeles’s lead throughout the fourth quarter. Phoenix trimmed its deficit to 95-94 when Nash converted a 3-point play and then fed Amare Stoudemire for a layup that 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.
Derek Fisher scored 22 points and Pau Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who rebounded from consecutive losses in Phoenix with their best defensive performance of the series, forcing 15 turnovers and holding Phoenix to mediocre shooting — yet the Suns came close to handing Los Angeles its first home loss of the postseason.