Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lakers Wins The Game – Thanks To Ron Artest

Basketball fans catch up their breath when the Lakers' small but terrible forward Ron Artest made only one of his eight shots in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, misfiring on a late three-point attempt that drew the ire of Coach Phil Jackson.

But Jackson had a funny feeling Ron Artest was capable of something special in the final minutes of a tight game against the Phoenix Suns, so he sent the struggling player back into the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Good thing for Ron Artest, and a good thing for the Lakers. Ron Artest cut across the lane to grab an errant Kobe Bryant three-point attempt and tossed it into the basket with 0.8 seconds left to give the Lakers an exhilarating 103-101 victory tonight at Staples Center.

"He has an uncanny knack of doing things," Phil Jackson said of Ron Artest, whose shot joins Derek Fisher's 0.4-second heave against San Antonio six years ago in Lakers' playoff lore.

Ron Artest finished with only four points for the Lakers, who have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series that shifts to US Airways Center in Phoenix on Saturday for Game 6. The home team has won each of the five games in the series.

"I thought Kobe got fouled on the shot, so I figured it was going to be short," Ron Artest said. "You've just got to continue the play."

The Lakers needed those heroics after Phoenix had battled back from a 101-96 deficit with 1:38 remaining on a 20-foot jumper by Steve Nash and a banked-in three-pointer by Jason Richardson with 3.5 seconds left. Steve Nash finished with 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting and he had 11 assists.

Kobe Bryant attempted a three-pointer from the wing while falling out of bounds with two seconds left, but the shot was well short and Ron Artest grabbed the ball and quickly shot it while turning toward the backboard.

"Bottom line, we didn't box Ron out," Phoenix Coach Alvin Gentry said. "We let him walk right in and get the rebound."

Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points and Fisher had 22 for the Lakers, who have won their last nine Game 5s under Phil Jackson, including a pair of triumphs this season. The Lakers are 8-0 at home in the 2010 playoffs. Pau Gasol added 21 points and Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 13 rebounds.

Phoenix Suns won Games 3 and 4 at home by utilizing a zone defense, repeatedly getting to the free-throw line and enjoying several breakthrough performances from its bench. Only one of those factors -- free throws -- worked in the Suns' favor in Game 5.

Phoenix did attempt 29 free throws to the Lakers' 23, but the Suns' bench combined for 31 points after getting 54 in Game 4.

The Lakers also scored 38 points in the paint and 23 points off 15 Phoenix turnovers. Phoenix Suns went with its reserves to start the second and fourth quarters, and the unit failed to reproduce its Game 4 magic. Guard Goran Dragic did little besides shove the Lakers' Sasha Vujacic early in the fourth quarter, resulting in offsetting technical fouls.

The Lakers appeared to have put the game out of reach late in the third quarter when a free throw by Lamar Odom gave them an 18-point lead at 74-56. But the Suns closed the quarter on a 16-4 run that included a four-point play by Jared Dudley, who was fouled by Pau Gasol on a three-point basket and made the ensuing free throw.

"It was a crazy game," Steve Nash said. "Just when you thought everything was OK, we lose."

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