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Sekou Smith

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Kobe Bryant is no stranger to buzzer-beating jumpers. Just ask the Phoenix Suns.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Artest's heroics joins list of last-second Lakers miracles


Posted May 28 2010 6:32PM

With sincerest apologies to No. 37 in purple and gold, the Lakers have been here and done this.

That shot you hit to win Game 5 of the Western Conference finals for the Lakers was as stunning as buzzer-beaters come. But it was hardly the first time the Lakers and their fans have witnessed the unthinkable, the seemingly unbelievable.

Ron Artest's off-balance, banked layup as time expired, the one that set off the wild celebration in the corner at Staples Center Thursday night, was a made-for-TV moment if ever there was one.

It's just not the first one several of these Lakers (Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher come to mind) have witnessed in their careers.

We could go back deeper into the Lakers' rich playoff vault to dig up a few gems, great shots from the past, big plays that led to glory.

The Lakers have been doing this since Elgin Baylor and Jerry West were running around in short shorts and Chuck Taylors trying to slow down those Boston Celtics' juggernauts of yesteryear.

Magic, Kareem and the Showtime Lakers were no strangers to late-game dramatics either.

All, save for Baylor, were champions. And they all needed a lucky/big shot to help them get to the proverbial promised land.

"You have to get lucky to win a title," three-time Finals MVP and former Lakers big man Shaquille O'Neal said before this postseason started (he and LeBron James didn't have much luck as the Cavaliers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals). "I've got four of them and three of them were lucky as hell."

The luck came during the journey.

Artest's shot Thursday night gave the Lakers the edge they need to take the next step in their journey. They own a 3-2 edge as the series shifts back to Phoenix Saturday night for Game 6.

Three of the Lakers' most memorable playoff shots during the past decade:

2004 Western Conference semifinals: Derek Fisher's jumper with .4 seconds to play saved the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. The Spurs had them in their sights in the final seconds, and on their home floor, but couldn't survive Fisher's magnificent (some say lucky) shot. This Lakers team, however, struggled to the finish that season. They made their fourth straight Finals appearance, having survived a tumultuous year with serious friction between O'Neal and Bryant, both on and off the court. They survived a six-game conference semifinal series against the Timberwolves. The Pistons waxed them in five games in the Finals, ending the run and that particular dynasty.

2006 Western Conference first round: Bryant's pull-up jumper at the buzzer in Game 4 gave the Lakers a 3-1 series lead over the Suns. And he did this after nailing a shot to send the game into overtime. It was a stunning showcase for Bryant, who had the seventh-seeded and underdog Lakers poised to knock off the No. 2 seed in the opening round. But the fairy tale ending was not to be. The Suns won three straight games to win the series in a Game 7 on their home floor and sent the stunned Lakers into the postseason searching for help (Pau Gasol) for Bryant.

2002 Western Conference finals: Robert Horry saved the Lakers in Game 4 of the conference finals against Sacramento. The Lakers were roughly 12 seconds away from a potentially devastating 3-1 deficit in the series. O'Neal and Bryant missed shots before then Kings center Vlade Divac inexplicably batted the ball out to Horry's trigger happy hands for the series-changing 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Lakers went on to win that series in seven games and crushed the Nets in the NBA Finals, the last one during the Shaq-Kobe Lakers' three straight titles.

Artest's shot can be added to the list.

The cosmic goat-to-hero shift is one thing Artest's shot had that those others did not.

He bricked two ill-advised jumpers in the 60 seconds before he snatched Bryant's airball out of the air and won the most important game of the Lakers' season to date, not that he can decide on the magnitude of the shot.

Artest wouldn't agree that his game-winner was his biggest shot ever.

"Biggest layup," he said. "Win by 30, win by one, it's just a win."

You're wrong Ron-Ron.

It's more than that, especially when you can add the video clip to the Lakers' playoff big-shot vault.

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and the author of NBA.com's Hang Time blog. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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