Ron Artest scored at the buzzer to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 103-101 win over the Phoenix Suns and move them within one victory of reaching the National Basketball Association’s championship series.
Artest was 1-for-8 in 31 minutes until the last second, when he scored the game winner to give the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals. He scored off Kobe Bryant’s missed 26-foot 3-pointer.
“I don’t know why I left him in the game,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Artest at a news conference. “I actually questioned it myself when I put him out there on the floor and there he was, he made the key play.”
With 56 seconds left in the game at Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Lakers ahead 101-98, Artest missed a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left on the shot clock.
Los Angeles led 53-45 at halftime before being outscored 56-50 in the second half. The Suns closed an 18-point gap with 3:44 to play in the third quarter to tie the game with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Trailing 101-98 with 11 seconds to play, Steve Nash recovered his own missed 3-pointer and passed to Jason Richardson, who missed from 28 feet with 5 seconds remaining. Channing Frye got the rebound and gave the ball back to Richardson, who scored on the third three-point try.
‘Opportunity to Win’
“Once we got into the open court and started to play aggressively, I thought we did a real good job,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said in a news conference. “We had an opportunity to win and didn’t quite get it done, but we’re not going to get discouraged.”
The teams head for Phoenix for Game 6 tomorrow.
“It’s going to be tough” said Bryant, who played 43 minutes in last night’s game. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The winner of the series will play the Orlando Magic or Boston Celtics for the NBA championship. The Celtics, holding a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, can clinch a spot in the NBA Finals with a win tonight in Boston.