Ron Artest’s desperation bank shot at the buzzer lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to a wild 103-101 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of their semi-final series on Thursday.
Artest’s game-winning shot came off a Kobe Bryant miss, snapping a 101-101 tie and giving the Lakers a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference series.
“I saw that Kobe got fouled so I knew it would be an air ball and I just went after it. It worked for me,” Artest said.
Bryant finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, but Artest provided the late heroics with just his second field goal of the game.
Game 6 is today in Phoenix, where the Suns will try to level the series and send it to a deciding game.
“I wanted to get a good look and Ron was able to sneak in there,” Bryant said.
Suns’ Jason Richardson banked in a straightaway three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to tie it for the Suns, who rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half.
Bryant took the inbounds pass from Lamar Odom and missed a difficult shot from the corner, but Artest dived in there and tossed up a prayer that found the basket as time expired, giving Los Angeles their 11th consecutive post-season win at home.
For Artest, the basket allowed him to make amends for a horrible blunder moments earlier where he rushed a three-pointer instead of using up the clock.
“I am still recovering,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We had a little session with Ron after the game. A lot of hugs and then a lot of discussion.”
Artest was making no apologies for trying to rush the three-pointer earlier.
“There was a time when I shot 43 percent from the three. I got to play. It just didn’t fall today,” he said. “Everybody is saying: ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, don’t shoot,’ but you got to play through that.”
The Lakers won the first two games at Staples Center, then lost two straight in the Arizona desert. The defending NBA champions are one win away from a third straight trip to the finals.
Pau Gasol added 21 points and nine rebounds, while Derek Fisher scored 22 points for the winners. Canadian Steve Nash was brilliant with 29 points and 11 assists for the Suns, who have won seven straight playoff games at home against the Lakers.
“We did a good, good job of challenging the shot,” said Suns coach Alvin Gentry, who was suffering from food poisoning during the game. “We just wanted to make sure we forced Kobe to the sidelines where he had to make a tough shot. We just didn’t do a very god job of boxing out the ball.”
Gentry said he got sick after eating earlier on Thursday at a Los Angeles restaurant, causing him to throw up into a bucket on the bench during the first half.
The sickness had nothing to do with the way the Suns played in the opening half, although it could have as they fell behind quickly and were down 53-45 going into the third quarter.
“Highs and lows. Kobe took [the] shot. He [Artest] got through. I turned and looked and he was already heading over that way. I thought it would hit the rim. It didn’t and ended up in his hands, and he hit the shot,” said Richardson, who was supposed to be guarding Artest on the final play.