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Artest's miracle shot leads Lakers past Suns

Posted May 27 2010 11:52PM

LOS ANGELES(AP) Ron Artest beat the buzzer with a wild bank shot after rebounding Kobe Bryant's miss, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns 103-101 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, but Artest was the improbable hero with just his second basket of the night.

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 rolled into the lane, collected the rebound and threw up a hideous shot that somehow went in.

Game 6 is Saturday night in Phoenix, where the Lakers can clinch the chance to play for their 16th championship.

Steve Nash had 29 points and 11 assists in a stirring second-half effort for the Suns, who hacked away at Los Angeles' lead throughout the fourth quarter. Phoenix trimmed its deficit to 95-94 when Nash converted a three-point play and then fed Amare Stoudemire for a layup that barely beat the shot clock with 2:52 left.

The Lakers led 101-96 with 1:38 left, but Nash hit another jumper and Artest missed two open shots. The Suns had three looks at a 3-point shot in the final seconds, but two missed before Richardson missed so badly that it banked in.

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 agonizingly close to handing Los Angeles its first home loss of the postseason.

The Lakers improved to 8-0 at home, where they'll play Game 7 on Monday night if the Suns hold serve in a series featuring five wins for the home team.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

00.0 Time showing on the clock when Artest’s game winning put-back attempt off Kobe Bryant’s missed three went through the net, though the ball was obviously out of his hands before the scoreboard flashed red. The biggest shot of Artest’s career was just his second hoop in nine attempts.

1 Assist short of a triple-double for Bryant, who finished with 30 points, 11 boards and nine assists. In Game 3, Bryant missed a triple-double by one rebound, while falling three boards shy of still another TD in Game 4.

3 Points for Goran Dragic in a frustrating 12:37 of playing time in which Slovenian countryman Sasha Vujacic followed his every move around the floor, helping hold the Suns’ Game 4 spark plug to three points on 1-of-5 shooting with four personal fouls, one assist and two turnovers.

13 Rebounds for Lamar Odom to lead the Lakers, who won the glass 49-40 thanks in part to 19 offensive glass cleans. Odom had five of those O boards, and added 17 points off the bench with four assists.

29 Free throws attempted by the Suns, six more than were taken by the Lakers, including a 15-6 edge in the second half. A category L.A. wanted to win prior to the game proved unattainable despite frequent drives into the paint.

Mike Trudell,

Lakers-Suns Quotes

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson

Q. (Question about Ron Artest)?
COACH JACKSON: I don't know why I left him in the game. I actually questioned it myself when I put him out there on the floor, and there he was. Made the key play.

Q. What emphasis was on attacking the zone in this game, and are you happy with your team's execution in attacking the zone.

Q. (Question about Kobe Bryant)?
COACH JACKSON: I anticipated a game like this in the series. All of them have been pretty much over in the last minute, and they were able to get this game back in control. Even at the end of three quarters, great comeback that they made. And you know I just felt like this was going to be that game.
And it sure was. And the next time I hope we're as fortunate. Although, you know, you have to say that that bang shot from 3 is pretty fortunate. One good shot deserves another one.

Q. Any idea why you did Ron back in? Did you have any instructions on that?
COACH JACKSON: He has an uncanny knack of doing things, and sometimes it just works out. He had a great steal that vaulted us into a big lead there in the third quarter. And he just has a knack of being around crucial plays.

Q. Talk about a knack of good plays (indiscernible). He seems to give you what you need. You stood by him for that reason.
COACH JACKSON: He performed very well tonight. He's very aggressive. I thought he did a great job offensively. Some things, some of the calls he just weathered through it. Had the poise and stayed strong and I thought there was a charged foul that was called, a blocking foul against him, and he just took it and went right on and played. And he got himself in foul trouble.
I had to give him a little rest here and there when I could. But he did a great job.

Q. Through the years you've won a number of titles along the way. You've had these moments. Tonight, a test of the buzzer beater, which I would consider expected. Is this just the luck that follows you around? How does it happen year after year where there's this one moment where this happens?
COACH JACKSON: My coaching staff says they want to live with me because I'm lucky and hang on. So whatever. Maybe it's luck. You look at the stat sheet tonight. We did most of the things right. Turnovers, rebounds, blocked shots.
We didn't shoot as well as we shot in the course of the series. But we got a number of shots more than our opponent. All that momentum that we had in the game seemed to be the one that carried us over at the end, and I think that's sometimes the way it is.
You create the luck or the momentum that you've built up from the start of the game through the end of the game.

Q. After Ron hits the 3‑pointer early in the shot clock off the bench, looked like you were saying something to him, looked like he wasn't listening to you is. Is that correct?
COACH JACKSON: Just talked to him about decisions, we asked him to make good decisions, and his judgment at certain times in the game. He wanted to redeem himself. I understand that. He missed a shot. I missed a shot, I got a second opportunity, I'm going to redeem it this time.
And you understand and kind of feel for a player, but that time of the game, it's not a good play. And I wanted to let him know that he has to know that and recognize it.

Q. (Question off microphone)?
COACH JACKSON: He was trying not to listen to me, very hard.

Q. (Question about Kobe Bryant)?
COACH JACKSON: Did he get an assist on that last play? That was a triple‑double. That's too bad.
Yes, I really needed to get him out of the ball game sometime in the fourth quarter. I thought we were going a little bit too reliant on him at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but that will happen at times.
But he played a stellar game tonight. Got in foul trouble early. Had to sit a few minutes and then came back and played great.

Q. How steady was Steve Nash in the fourth quarter?
COACH JACKSON: It's the way we thought he would play. Kind of what we anticipated we would make him have to do was shoot the ball, carry the offense for them, try and stay at home on other guys so we weren't getting burned to the 3‑pointers, but unfortunately all of it was happening tonight for us. Frye was hitting 3‑pointers and they were getting 3‑point plays.
A lot of it Steve was on the bench, but when he came back in at the end of the game he really did carry that charge that they made.

Q. Phil, on the contested shot, when Artest goes for that 3, that's always the no, no, no, yes type thing. Is that shot ever a wise move if it goes in, or is that just always a bad decision with the time situation involved there, even if it goes in? Is that not a shot you want your player to make?
COACH JACKSON: Percentage‑wise, you know, if it's someone that's a 45 percent 3‑point shooter, you'd certainly live with it. That's something that you have to talk to players about judgment. Do you feel good? Do you have good balance? Did the ball come in your hand the right way?
There are a bunch of things that go into a shot like that besides just casting it up.

Q. You switched a lot of the picks on the pick‑and‑roll tonight. And you seemed to be more physical both with Nash and with them in general defensively, was that part of the plan and were you happy with how it worked?
COACH JACKSON: Well, it didn't work very well for us to begin with. We got a lot of fouls to start with. And we got in foul trouble in the first three, four minutes of the game in the penalty.
And I had to kind of settle them down, because it's high‑energy game. We wanted to play aggressively. We did play aggressively. I thought that switching was sometimes overdone.
I don't mind at the end of a clock and the need situations, we call it. We switched a little bit too much for my tastes at some points in the game.
But that's some of the things you almost have to do against this ball club when they have their 3‑point shooting lineup in.

Q. You've coached Dennis Rodman, Isaiah Rider and Ron Artest. I was wondering, the toughest player you've ever had to coach and where would Ron fit in there?
COACH JACKSON: We've got Ron Williams and Bison Dele. A whole list of players that it's ‑‑ Ron is unique. And he's very much an individual, and I think that as the NBA goes, every player has his own kind of individual personality you have to handle in a different way.
And Ron is determined. I think he's dogged. I think that's what makes him a great defensive player. I think sometimes he gets very locked in and focused.
And sometimes he has to split his vision or get diversion to get through, break through. His play has generated a lot of energy for our team this year. This is not one of his better series right now. We hope he can break through and open up a little bit in this next game.

Q. Drew's mobility defensively seemed a lot better. Could you talk about what you thought he did on that side of the floor?
COACH JACKSON: Yeah, we had some blocked shots. I thought he was a presence out there, which is really important. Lopez hurt us in the course of these games, and particularly in Phoenix.
And tonight I thought Drew played a really good game as far as the minutes he could play. He got in foul trouble the second half. Kind of limited the minutes he could play.

Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant

Q. How concerned are you that you all let an 18‑point lead dissipate, gotta put back in to win the game as you head into a close‑out game in Phoenix, Game 6?
KOBE BRYANT: I'm concerned. We had a mental lapse. Mental lapses, in transition defense, and giving up 3‑point shots and great looks when our defense had been steady pretty much all night, except for that spurt where they got back into it.

Q. You've been talking about defense the whole week, and how defense is more important than just scoring. Now, you guys had an 18‑point lead, but you only won by two points. Can you evaluate the defense tonight?
KOBE BRYANT: Defensively, we were terrific. We did a great job. Had a stretch there where it enabled them to get back in the game. But for the most part we did a great job.

Q. Would you describe that 3‑point that Ron took late a mental lapse?
KOBE BRYANT: It was a good look.

Q. (Off microphone)?
KOBE BRYANT: It was a good look. I'll give you a double entendre and leave it at that.

Q. Could you describe what this means for the team and Ron for him to have the game‑winning shot?
KOBE BRYANT: I think it means a lot for him. You know, he's kind of been going up and down. I think emotionally for him is a big boost.

Q. First of all, that was a hell of a pass. Nice job.
KOBE BRYANT: Thank you.

Q. Can that be a demoralizing loss for that team, do you think?
KOBE BRYANT: Not for that team. I think that team just bounced right back. Lucy Goosey bunch. Just go out and play. I don't think they'll linger at all.

Q. After Games 3 and 4, both those losses, how do you feel you guys did execution‑wise and the things you need to take care of, get it down low, penetrate the zone?
KOBE BRYANT: We did much better, aside from that stretch that enabled them to get back in the game. We had mental lapses on Channing Frye and Dudley and transition and things like that. I mean, against this team you have to shore that up and be solid for as close to 48 minutes as possible, because if not they can get back in the game just as quickly as they were out of it.

Q. Is this the kind of game that makes a squad stronger and the ability now to go into the desert and close this thing off?
KOBE BRYANT: Well, I mean, there are a lot of things we did right. So I think it's important for us to focus on that. As a group, you know, it's always fun to have wins like this, at the buzzer, especially for Ron. I'm very happy for him.
But we'll leave it here and go up there and try to win one.

Q. I was going to ask you if you thought Phil acted any differently before Game 5 than he ever has, and what is it about him that put you guys in a mood that you can rebound from any disappointing performance before that?
KOBE BRYANT: He's the same old, same old. You really couldn't tell if it was a Game 5 or Game 7 or Game 1 or Game 1 of a regular season. His mood is always the same. His message is always the same.
And I think for us it instills a stability that other teams might not have.

Q. Can you talk about the game Fisher had and what he gives you guys this time of year?
KOBE BRYANT: You know, he played fantastic. He was aggressive offensively. Took what the defense gave him. I felt defensively he did a great job. Got a couple of calls that didn't go his way in terms of being physical defensively, but I think he played a marvelous game.

Q. Can you talk a little bit just about how if you have a little more space maybe on the inbound maybe the shot is different and Ron isn't available to catch the ball and all that, just how little things can turn games and series and things like that over the course of a playoff?
KOBE BRYANT: It's just amazing, you go through all this preparation and all this stuff. It comes down to just fundamental things. They knocked down a 3‑pointer because we didn't box out. They wind up losing the game because they didn't box out. It's just little things like that that are the difference between winning big playoff games and losing them.

Q. In the first round, after you got through that, you said we'll never see anybody like the Thunder again. Same hold true for the Suns, there's just nothing else like them?
KOBE BRYANT: They're a completely different team. They're the only team that plays this style of ball, outside of the Nicks, but Phoenix has so many more shooters and very powerful one‑two punch. So it's a very different team.

Q. This time of year you always talk about the challenge. What's it like right now, are you enjoying this challenge, especially the way it's coming down to crunch time here?
KOBE BRYANT: Well, yeah, this is why we do what we do. It's the fun part. It's probably nerve‑racking for the people at home. But for us it's just as it should be.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about just the relentlessness Ron plays with, never seems to stop ever?
KOBE BRYANT: Yeah, he just puts his head down and just goes, just goes. I felt the second half, you know, he did a much better job in the first half. I thought he was thinking a little too much. And the second half he was more active. Got his hands on balls, very aggressive defensively.

Q. What did you see on that last play, after you took the shot, could you see that Ron was there? How did it unfold from where you were at?
KOBE BRYANT: I saw him coming, actually. I felt I had a good look. Grant Hill stuck his hand in there in the last second, forced me to double pump. Other than that I was going to shoot over Steve. And once I released the ball, I saw Ron sneaking in. I was just hoping that he got it off in time.

Q. At the beginning of the game, the two quick fouls, were you surprised ‑‑ how did you feel about that. Three minutes in, you had two fouls. Probably not the start you wanted to get off, just talk about that. Were you overly concerned, or was it just unfortunate way to start the game?
KOBE BRYANT: Unfortunate.

Lakers Forward Pau Gasol

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on Ron Artest’s game winning shot:
“I was trying to go to the boards too. And luckily, I think Kobe attracted two guys and Ron was by himself, and luckily the ball went where he was and put it in and it was a great put back.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the end of tonight’s game:
“It was crazy. Emotions were really intense. Obviously it was a tough game. But we had to compete extremely hard and they (the Phoenix Suns) made those, they took those three three’s, they banked the last one in and (we were) fortunate to make that last shot, luckily Ron (Artest) put it back and it was, obviously, a great win for us.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the Phoenix Suns’ zone defense:
“I think we should be very familiar with it at this point in the series and we just have to continue to be aggressive and attack the zone and not just settle for swinging the ball from the outside, because that’s what they (the Phoenix Suns) rely on. They’re hoping that we continue to shoot jumpers, long shots.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on the upcoming game in Phoenix on Saturday:
“It’s a tough matchup. We just have to continue to play hard, play together and be aggressive.”

Lakers’ Forward Lamar Odom

Lakers’ Lamar Odom on Ron Artest’s game winning shot:
“It’s funny; I was extremely excited and happy for him. I told him, you know, before the game, I always remind him that this is why he came here, you know, to be in a position like he was in tonight.”

Lakers’ Lamar Odom on what that game winning shot means to Ron Artest:
“His whole career, I mean his whole life, was about perseverance, sticking with it. Tonight was a prime example of that.”

Lakers’ Lamar Odom on the nature of the game tonight:
“Both teams are going to fight. I mean they had a lead in the beginning of the game. And a game like this, a pivotal game, you have to understand that nobody is going to give up. We made some mistakes in that third quarter and let them back in it.”

Lakers’ Lamar Odom on moving forward to Game 6 in Phoenix:
“There’s some things we need to work on, especially going back up there (Phoenix), but if we take the good things we did defensively, apply it on the road, we should be OK.”

Lakers’ Forward Ron Artest

Q. You've seen the Lakers from afar win the titles. Now you're a part of this in the pivotal Game 5 of the Finals, you had the game‑winning shot. Could you talk about how that feels and the experience?
RON ARTEST: Well, usually after the games I like to move on. You know, win or lose, you know, good or bad, you know, you move on. You know we know Game 6 is going to be tough. We know it's going to be tough. And we've got to go out there and I felt we played good on their floor. We just couldn't sustain it, I guess. But win by 30, win by one, it's just a win.

Q. Is it safe to say that's the biggest shot of your career?
RON ARTEST: Biggest layup. I missed a lot of layups during the regular season. Previous teams I made more jumpers and the layups. But now I'm missing jumpers and missing layups.
But you know just staying with it. Staying with it and trying to stay focused. And just trying to play my part and see what happens.

Q. Ron, obviously there were highs and lows in the last few minutes for you.

Q. And of course with the victory, it makes palatable the lows. Could you talk about the 3‑point shot you made. Phil said he was sort of talking to you, wasn't sure you were, he was sure actually you were trying not to hear him, but I guess you did probably talk to him afterwards?
RON ARTEST: No, just playing for coach my first year, obviously, I'm a better player than just seen me last year in the Playoffs. And, obviously, I'm a better player than my numbers are speaking of right now. But there's a new system for me. I'm trying to somehow, you know, make it work for the team. So that's kind of why I kind of wanted to take that shot. It's not always a good shot, but nobody's perfect.
And you move on and you try to get better from it. And obviously, you know, 24 seconds on the shot clock, you bring it out. You bring it out and you set back up.

Q. How did you happen to be where you were on Kobe's shot. You were in front of the basket. Is that just all there was available there?
RON ARTEST: I thought Kobe got fouled on the shot. So I just kind of figured it was going to be short. Looked like he got his on his arm a little bit. I figured it was going to be short. And it was a little short.

Q. Could you just describe that last play unfold, from when you get the ball, who you felt on you, or if you felt anyone near you and putting it in and everyone hugging on you?
RON ARTEST: It was weird, because I'm not used to getting hit a lot. Just like basketball hit. Not anything intentional or flagrant. But these guys, they're tough. And they're coming and attacking us. They're really playing hard.
So it was times where I would get a rebound, but I might not get it because these guys are playing so hard. I thought I might throw around my weight a little bit, being one of the heaviest, small forwards in the NBA outside of LeBron. So I gotta let my weight work for me a little bit, because these guys are tough. They are consistently coming over our backs. They're just playing hard trying to win.

Q. A lot of times when especially Kobe is known to make those shots, I think the tendency is just to freeze and watch. Especially with that little time left. Why did you run in and how did you not get caught watching?
RON ARTEST: Just gotta continue to play. I was kind of not playing my game from the beginning of the game. And it kind of carried over. So in the second half, I was finding my way a little bit. Made some good passes and good steals and got some rebounds.
So I guess that aggressive play can carry over into that last possession.

Q. When you were taking that 3‑point, the entire arena was shouting no, no, no. Did you hear them?
RON ARTEST: No, during the game you're not supposed to hear them.

Q. But what was going on? Was it an impulsive thing, when the minute clock was going up? Did you know it was up?
RON ARTEST: It's not like ‑‑ was that an earthquake or something? Wow. During the game, you don't really hear, you don't really hear the fans. You see Kobe, he makes shots. You don't hear the fans. On the road he made big shots. You don't hear the fans. You don't scream yes, no, please don't or whatever. You just try to focus on the game and we was up 3. I was hoping to go up 6 at that point.

Lakers’ Guard Derek Fisher

Q. You've had your shots. What was it like for you just observing and then participating in that dog pile after Ron's shot?
DEREK FISHER: It was a great moment. Obviously, with us being on the winning end, it was a great moment. But just in general, you know, I mean how much more fun of a basketball game can you be in and watch and the fans.
It was just a great atmosphere overall. And we're very happy for Ron, you know, because Ron's been asked to sacrifice a lot of his game to really try and fit in to the way we do things.
And sometimes it makes it hard for him to have the rhythm and the fluidity to his game that he's capable of having. But he sacrificed a lot to help us get to where we're trying to go. That's why we were so happy for him.

Q. Derek, did you sense pretty early that the tone of this game was just totally different in, I mean it seemed so physical right from the get‑go and what kind of adjustment resulted from that?
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, I mean, I think you could definitely sense the assertiveness and the aggressiveness of the Suns and that they really felt like the momentum was on their side, and they were playing sharp and crisp and physical around the rim.
There were some times, even on rebounds, where they were just crashing through guys and getting the ball back. So I think they understood how important that this game was. And they came out and played that way in the beginning.
And we forced them to play from behind for a long time. And when you're home court, it's good to have that cushion, because you can see at the end sometimes you barely get by. But that's what happens when you make a team play from behind.

Q. There were a lot of plays, not just the last play of the game, but little things that happened over the course of the game that bounced your way. As a team, are these sorts of the little things that have to happen, maybe a little bit of luck that happens here and there on the way to something bigger?
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, I think there's always some things that happen that you can't or don't plan for when you are out there playing a game. Sometimes the ball bounces funny. A guy shoots an air ball, and that changes your ability to get a rebound.
Something happens, a guy's dribble, the ball kicks off his foot somebody picks it up and lays it in. There's a lot of things that happen in the game that you can't necessarily plan for. But the key is to keep playing and keep fighting and not really worrying about what's happening or how it looks. But just trying to make sure that the end result is what you want it to be.

Q. Some people were doubting you this year, and you've been able to rise to the occasion. Can you just comment on that, please?
DEREK FISHER: I don't know. I mean, I'm pretty used to it. I think for most of my basketball career, even as a kid, I was never necessarily the best guy on the team or even the best two or three guys. It was always kind of a team guy, the guy that kept everything together and just ran the team.
So I've never looked at criticism as a personal thing. I've been on great teams. And when you have Phil Jackson as a coach and Shaquille O'Neill and Kobe Bryant and the guys I've played with, you're not going to get much press or attention.
So I just try to keep doing what I do. And you know there's a song out right now called "All I Do is Win" and that's pretty much what I focus on, and I allow that to do the speaking.

Q. Ron kind of had the Hollywood clutch moment today, the buzzer beater and everything. But you had a lot of clutch moments throughout the fourth quarter, couple of big shots from the left side, could you talk about that stretch you had, just critical point?
DEREK FISHER: You know, being reinserted back into the game at that point, you know, sometimes when I come back into a game in the second or fourth quarter, you know I don't always get the shot opportunities that I may get in the first quarter.
There are a lot of nights where I might have three or four shots in the first quarter and none in the second quarter. So I really just tried to reestablish some aggressiveness so that it's not just up to Kobe or Pau to try and create something. And we were doing a good job of moving the ball side to side on the zone defense and Ron was attacking gaps and Lamar was attacking gaps, and we were able to get some good looks down the stretch.

Lakers’ Center Andrew Bynum on Game 6:
“We have to go there and try and close this out. We need to play with the same energy defensively and just try to shut them down.”

Lakers’ Center Andrew Bynum on looking to win Game 6:
“Well we know we need to move on and that is what we are looking at. That is our motivation. We just need to win one more game and we are there at the big show.”

Lakers’ Center Andrew Bynum on the Suns’ performance:
“They are playing with a lot of energy. They are circling us and trying to make it tough. Tonight we did a better job of reading them. We still let leads go though and we can do better in that department. We got them up by 15 a couple of times and let them come right back.”

Lakers’ Guard Jordan Farmar on playing the Suns:
“We knew that being up two to zero that this series was far from over. They are a tough team that we knew would come back. Especially with the energy in their building, it is tough to beat them. We have to try and make some adjustments quickly and get back to work.”

Lakers’ Guard Jordan Farmar on Ron Artest’s performance:
“We just want him to keep playing. Things are going to happen throughout the course of a game. He makes that shot and he is a hero. It worked out for him and he got a chance to redeem himself. He kept playing when everybody else stopped and made a big play for himself.”

Lakers’ Forward Luke Walton on what the Lakers need to do to win Game 6:
“Limit their second chances. Limit their fast break points. Stay with the offense and don’t let the tempo get too up and down, and try to do what we do best. That is throwing the ball around and wasting the shot clock.”

Lakers’ Forward Luke Walton on playing the Suns:
“We want to close game six out for sure, but we are at home tonight and two or three different times they took the lead, they did a good job of taking advantage of things like turnovers and forced shots. They [Suns] are constantly just getting back into games and when they get hot they get real hot and they are tough to stop.”

Lakers’ Forward Luke Walton on Ron Artest’s game winning shot:
“We drew it up for Kobe, normally he hits the game winner but they [Suns] did a great job of contesting that shot. Ron is one of the best offensive rebounders and strongest players in this league and he got to it [the ball] and made one of those crazy shots that he can make. It was great for him and we are all really happy for Ron.”

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry

COACH GENTRY: To me it's a good effort by us, and at least they know we're not going to go away.

Q. (Off microphone).
COACH GENTRY: It gets a lot tougher when it's an air ball. Usually air balls go back to the offensive team for some reason, and we didn't do a good job. Bottom line, we didn't box Ron out. We let him walk right in and get the rebound.
That's kind of one of those things where you know you've got to do a better a job with it.

Q. Is that just like a dangerous situation, you're running extra guys at Kobe?
COACH GENTRY: Not really. In that situation right there, he caught it and shot it. We did a great job of challenging the shot. I mean, anytime it's a last second shot, you're going to be frightened as heck with Kobe out on the floor. He's made, I think either six or seven this year in the last possession of the game.
So we just wanted to make sure we forced them to the sideline where he was going to have to be able to shoot a quick shot, and we got him to shoot a tough shot, really, and we just didn't do a very good job of boxing out and coming up with the ball.
But as I said, that's kind of what happened. Those plays like that are the difference between championship teams and really good teams. We just gotta make sure we make that play.

Q. Describe the illness, did it get better or worse?
COACH GENTRY: I ate at a restaurant today that will not be named. But for some reason it didn't sit well with me.

Q. Were you going to leave the sideline?
COACH GENTRY: I wasn't going to leave the sideline. I told someone it's very similar to college. Once you get it out of the system, everything's okay. It's like a Friday night, you know, frat party, okay.

Q. When you guys lose a game like this so close, how do these guys recover from that?
COACH GENTRY: I think for us, you know, our whole deal was we kept talking about trying to get in a position to win the game the last four minutes. We got down 16, I don't know, we were down 18, and we just kept saying we gotta chip away and try to have an opportunity to win the last four minutes of the game.
We put ourselves in that position. Just didn't quite finish the play. They made a good play. You gotta give Ron Artest credit. He ran down the ball and got it in the basket. For us, I don't see anything negative about it. I think the only thing that's negative is the way we approached the game a little bit. We weren't quite as aggressive, and they got into us defensively.
And we struggled a little bit getting in our offense. But on the defensive side of the ball, we did great. I mean, we've now gotten them down from 58% to 41%. So we did a great job, and they keep talking about the zone, and our zone has been fine.

Q. (Off microphone)?
COACH GENTRY: They decided to switch the screens. If you're going to put Pau or Bynum or Lamar on Steve we asked him to be aggressive. That's what he did. He did a great job. I thought everything we did was fine. We're in a situation where we just didn't quite get it done.
It was one play here that made the difference in the game. And we're disappointed. We're not going to get discouraged, though. We're not a team to get discouraged. We get disappointed, and the first thing that Steve said when we went in the locker room was that just forget about this, there's time to concentrate on the next game. He's exactly right.
We'll look at it, and we'll find some things that we need to get better at. Obviously, the offensive rebounds tonight hurt us. They ended up with 19 of them. And we had done such a great job at our place; we will have to do a better job in that area. But all around, I thought once we got into the open court and started to play and started to play aggressively, I thought we did a real good job.
Hey, they're a very good team. And we had an opportunity to win and didn't quite get it done. But we're not going to get discouraged. We're not happy, I can tell you that. We're very disappointed. We're not jovial. But we'll be okay?

Phoenix Suns Guard Steve Nash

Q. Steve, in this series you haven't really looked to score that much until tonight. What was it that made you to get more involved defensively?
STEVE NASH: They changed their defense tonight, they switched more pick‑and‑rolls, so more opportunities to isolate.
So that's really, again, we stick to what we do and just try to read the defense and make the right play. And tonight, since they changed, I tried to change.

Q. What's the feeling for doing what you guys do coming all the way back, tying it and then they beat you on the rebound?
STEVE NASH: You know, everything's okay. We came back obviously with a great effort. Maybe we deserve this game maybe we didn't. And lost. And they held home court. We'll go back and do the same and we'll come back here for Game 7.

Q. Playing like you did in the fourth quarter, it's like you feel you're in a zone and you can make every play. You have this feeling at this moment?
STEVE NASH: I was just determined to try to win. And I kept getting opportunities and was just concentrating and trying to do what I could to win the game.
Some nights you have opportunities and some nights it's other guys, and some nights it's my opportunity. And I tried to do what I could for my team.

Q. Steve, just talk about the difference in emotions you guys felt in both plays and how crazily things changed?
STEVE NASH: It was a crazy game. It had a bit of everything and we found a way to tie it up and then we lost in the last second put‑back.
Just when we thought it was okay in overtime we lose. So that's life. We have to take a lot of positives from tonight and realize we have to go home and play as well we did at home in Games 3 and 4 and give ourselves a chance to come back in Game 7.

Q. You had a lot of pick‑and‑rolls in the fourth quarter where you found yourself isolated with Pau, was that a matchup you were happy to see and more of what you hope to do in Game 6?
STEVE NASH: It's how they play it. I think our offense is good no matter how they decide to play, and I think we can get good looks. So I'm not going to say one way or another what I hope for. Whatever they throw at us, I think there's something that we can do to use our abilities and tonight it happened to be they were switching.
They had a big guy on me. I tried to be aggressive, and the next game I'll do the same, or if they change it, we'll go to whatever else they're giving up.

Q. Steve, you've obviously had a lot of playoff success in your career. You've also been on the receiving end of some pretty tough moments. 2007 against San Antonio and I guess maybe this one. Do you get tired trying to find a positive after games like this?
STEVE NASH: No. I think you have to realize that we lost the game. And it doesn't matter how you lost it, you lost the game. And we go home. We've got a chance to hold serve at home. And if we do that, we've got a wonderful opportunity to come back and make up for this one.
So our attitude has to be great. We have to go home with a lot of strength from this game.

Q. Steve, the great comeback, but how do you look at it from the point of trying to keep yourself from having a demoralizing loss going into the next game and just shutting it off and just moving on?
STEVE NASH: You know, we got a great group of guys that's really stuck together this year. So we got back in the locker room, we already started shifting our focus to Game 6.
So if we continue to encourage each other, continue to draw the best out of each other, you know, I think we can have a lot of positive energy back home in Game 6. Our fans will be terrific. And we have a lot of belief.

Q. Do you think that the Suns ‑‑ you held the Lakers to about 42 percent, that the defense has kind of figured out what you need to do. I know they scored about 100 points. But that the Suns defense is improving?
STEVE NASH: Yeah, I mean, our defense is getting better. I think we did a good job again tonight. I thought there were stretches of the game where we got stagnant. And, you know, particularly I would say second and third quarters. But I think we'll learn from it and hopefully at home we'll be a little better.
And if we can get Game 6 we'll come back and maybe learn a little bit from this one tonight.

Q. Usually when you're in a situation like that, with Kobe taking a potential game‑winning shot, you do the best job you can, but then you're stuck watching the flight of the ball, is it going to go in, is it not. Can you describe seeing and knowing that it was going to be short and thinking that you guys did what you needed to do and then to have the outcome that happened?
STEVE NASH: I mean, we played it well. We just didn't keep them off the glass. And that happens. And we just got to be really fortunate it didn't happen in a deciding game.
So at the end of it, we go home and got a chance to hold serve. And, like I said, we have a great opportunity after that to come back here for a Game 7 and avenge this one.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Steve.

Suns’ Forward Amar’e Stoudemire

Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire on tonight’s loss:
“We got to swallow this one. They hit a great shot at the end of the game, Ron Artest did. They played well enough to win.”

Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire on tonight’s game:
“We had a chance to win. We didn’t quite pull it out. We got to get back to Phoenix, try to get that win, tie the series back up. See if we can do that.”

Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire on how they got back into the game:
“We were losing and we played desperate. We played like we wanted to win. We need that the whole 48 minutes. So we got back into it, played well enough to tie it up but we didn’t quite get the win.”

Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire on the Suns playing better in the second half of tonight’s game compared to the first half:
“We did. We really wanted to win this one. It’s tough when you lose like that. We got to swallow this one and get ready for game 6.”

Suns’ Jason Richardson on how Ron Artest was able to get to the ball for the final tip-in:
“He just got through. I looked and turned and he was already heading over that way. I thought the ball was going to hit the rim. I didn’t know it was going to come up that short.”

Suns’ Jason Richardson on whether the Suns’ comeback tonight gives the team hope for the rest of the series:
“Yeah, it gives us a lot of hope. We really wanted to get this one and head back home 3-2 but we’ve got our work cut out ahead of us. We’ve got to come in at home and win the game and force a Game 7.”

Suns’ Jason Richardson on the amazing back-and-forth ending of the game:
“It’s a high and a low… It’s luck of the ball, I guess.”

Suns’ Channing Frye on how they got back into the game:
“We just fought back. We’re a resilient bunch and we just started believing in each other and just kind of playing our style of basketball, just picking up the pace. The guys were playing extremely unselfish, attacking the rim and being aggressive.”

Suns’ Channing Frye on why he said he should have gotten the rebound on the last play when he wasn’t the one guarding/responsible for boxing-out Ron Artest:
“It doesn’t matter. It’s a team game. It’s not like we’re playing tennis. So we’ve got to come out here and everybody has to go get it. There’s a lot of responsibility on this team. Everybody just needs to go get the ball. In this type of situation, the ball just took an unlucky bounce and it’s not just one person’s responsibility. We win as a team, we lose as a team. So that’s just kind of how it is right now.”

Suns’ Jared Dudley on the end of tonight’s game:
“It’s disappointment. We battled back. We were down big. That shows you how hard the team came back. Tied it up. I thought we did a good job on Kobe. We switched and Grant took him. I thought he took a bad shot. Ron was in the right place at the right time. You’ve got to tip your hat to them.”

Suns’ Jared Dudley on the Suns’ unwillingness to give up:
“This is a team that all year has battled back. There’s no big lead that is safe. We’re a team that can shoot the ball. We’re very aggressive. We hit shots. Channing got hot. I got an and-one three. We just kept it going.”

Lakers-Suns Preview

By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Lakers’ swagger is more of a stagger after consecutive losses in the Western Conference finals.

After leaving town last week to chants of “We want Boston,” Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol realize they won’t even get the chance to defend their NBA title unless Los Angeles starts defending the Phoenix Suns.

Although Gasol says Game 5 on Thursday night is “a must-win for us,” the champions’ California cool shows few signs of cracking, beyond Bryant’s grumbling about missed defensive assignments.

After surviving a near-identical jam in last season’s conference finals against Denver, the Lakers came away with a confidence they can rise to any occasion—even a best-two-of-three series against a surging, shot-making opponent with rising confidence of its own.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that we love this,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Wednesday, not sounding much like a coach planning to fill out retirement papers next month. “This is what champions are made of. If you have the best teams in the West going up against each other, it should come down to a challenge like this. … This is what basketball at this level is. Like I told them, ‘If you can’t meet this challenge, then why go to the finals?”’

The Lakers have been in this situation three previous times over the past two playoffs: a series tied at 2, with Game 5 at home. Los Angeles won each time, beating Houston and the Nuggets last season before trouncing Oklahoma City last month in the first round. Overall, they’ve won Game 5 seven straight times at home.

Yet the Suns hold every smidgen of momentum heading back to Staples Center after winning the last two games with a gimmicky zone defense, impressive bench play and another phenomenal exhibition of offense. Los Angeles’ 58 percent shooting in its first two victories masked its full series of ineffective defense so far: Los Angeles has yielded 113 points per game, and Phoenix has shaken off a brief spell of outside shooting problems.

At least the Lakers are back home, where they haven’t lost in seven playoff games this spring.

“The momentum we have, the confidence we have now, is definitely going to help us going to L.A.,” said Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, who shook off two mediocre games at Staples Center with big efforts in Phoenix. “We definitely can win there. It’s just a matter of us implementing our will.”

Will was a popular topic in El Segundo as well, with Bryant declaring that most of the Lakers’ problems are mental lapses on execution and assignments. After nearly posting a triple-double in Game 4, Bryant lamented Los Angeles’ inability to stick to its assignments when the Suns repeatedly ran their pick-and-roll, drive-and-dish offense.

“My message is offensively, we’re going to score enough points,” Bryant said. “Defensively, we’ve got to do a much better job. That’s my message. We’ve got to grind, do a better job staying in front of them.”

The Lakers uniformly downplayed the importance of Phoenix’s zone defense, a 2-3 scheme that puts defenders on both sides of Los Angeles’ post players. The Lakers’ shooting decreased sharply in Phoenix, but Jackson snorted at the idea he’s being outmaneuvered, noting his club still scored 107.5 points per game in Arizona.

“They challenge you in a lot of ways that we have to adjust to,” Gasol said. “It’s mostly stuff we know about. It’s about being alert all the time.”

Suns coach Alvin Gentry will have to miss his son’s elementary school graduation on Thursday night after his club avoided the sweep that seemed highly possible after its first two losses in Los Angeles.

Gentry persuaded his players to stick with his simple defensive scheme in the past two games. The Suns allowed Bryant to work his usual offensive magic, but forced the Lakers’ low-post scorers to work extra hard for shots—or to give up the ball to the Lakers’ rather ordinary perimeter shooters, including Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Shannon Brown.

“We want to stop everyone, but sometimes you just can’t stop Kobe,” Suns guard Steve Nash said of Bryant, who’s averaging 28.9 points per game in the playoffs. “So we can’t get discouraged. He’s playing as well as maybe he’s ever played right now. He may continue to do that. We’ve proven we can win if he plays great, but we’ve got to be really solid. We’ve got to be tough. We’ve got to win all the little battles, because they do have some matchups and talent that we don’t have.”

Jackson echoed Nash’s concerns about the little things, citing a few offensive rebounds the Lakers failed to secure in the first quarter of Game 4. Those mistakes eventually snowballed into team-wide problems with execution, even after the Lakers took care of almost every detail in the first two games while extending their playoff winning streak to eight games.

“We understood that it was going to be hard,” Gasol said. “The first two results we obtained gave us a good feeling, but we knew the Suns were going to bounce back, and they have.”

Bryant and center Andrew Bynum didn’t appear to practice with the Lakers on Wednesday, although Jackson didn’t say for sure. Bynum is playing on an injured right knee that will require surgery, while Bryant simply takes advantage of every chance to rest his accumulated injuries.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited


Lakers-Suns Scouting Report


Those are the significant statistics from Game 4. The first set of numbers (51-36) is the rebounding total from the game. Quite often the team that wins the rebound battle is the one that is working the hardest. When there is that big of a disparity then there is obviously a big problem. In addition the Suns had 18 offensive rebounds and we simply cannot afford to give them those extra possessions. So, as the old playoff cliché goes, “No Rebounds, No Rings!”. We must do better on the boards tonight. The second set of numbers is the bench scoring total. Our subs were out-scored by 34. We need to do a better job defensively of communicating so that we do not give the number of open looks that the Suns had in the two games in Phoenix. In this series, mismatches will not beat us the way that giving up open shots will. We must have the kind of trust in our teammates so that we know that we will be there to help the helper. Against the Suns we may even have to take it a step or two further and just continue to help, recover and rotate so that we minimize the open looks.

Regster to Lakers Courtside Connection to read more.

Lakers-Suns Injury Report

Ron Artest (sprained left thumb) will play.
Shannon Brown (sprained right thumb) will play.
Kobe Bryant (arthritis, right index finger) will play.
Andrew Bynum (slight tear, lateral meniscus, right knee) is probable.
Sasha Vujacic (severe sprain, left ankle) is probable.
Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.


Lakers-Suns Game Notes

The Lakers won their season series with Phoenix 3-1 this year, marking the third consecutive season the Lakers have taken a season series from the Suns by a 3-1 margin. The Lakers series victory in 2007-08 that started this current run snapped a run of three consecutive losing seasons to the Suns from 2004-07. This will be the 214th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 125-88. The Lakers are 16-6 against the Suns all-time at STAPLES Center during the regular season and 7-3 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix. On the road, the Lakers have gone 4-6 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix but are 4-2 in their last six regular season games at US Airways Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-14 against the Suns during the regular season. In 49 career games against the Suns including 42 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.8 points. Last season, Bryant shared MVP honors with Shaquille O’Neal, then with the Suns, at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Additionally, last season, the Lakers defeated the Suns by 26 points 2/26/09 at STAPLES Center. The 26-point margin of victory was the Lakers largest over the Suns since January 4, 2002 when Los Angeles defeated Phoenix 118-86 at STAPLES Center. Suns forward Jared Dudley was a teammate in Charlotte with both Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison while Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03). Also, Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright won three championships as a center for Phil Jackson’s Bulls from 1990-92 and served as an assistant coach under Jackson from 1996-98 when the Bulls won their final two championships of the 90’s.


- In best-of-seven series tied at 2-2, the Lakers are 25-6 in Game 5 (any round) all-time. (22-6 Los Angeles, 3-0 Minneapolis)

When tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven series (any round), the Lakers are 23-8. (20-8 Los Angeles, 3-0 Minneapolis)

When winning Game 5 of a best-of-seven series tied at 2-2, the Lakers are 21-4 all-time. (18-4 Los Angeles, 3-0 Minneapolis) ␣ When losing Game 5 of a best-of-seven series tied at 2-2, the Lakers are 2-4 all-time. (2-4 Los Angeles, n/a Minneapolis)

- The Lakers are 18-0 all-time in HOME Game 5’s of a best-of-seven series tied at 2-2. (17-0 Los Angeles, 1-0 Minneapolis). In those series, the Lakers are 17-1 all- time, with their only loss coming in the 1969 NBA Finals vs. Boston.

- The Lakers have not lost a 2-2 best-of-seven series when winning Game 5 since the 1969 NBA Finals vs. Boston (15 in a row). ␣ The Lakers last loss in Game 5 of a 2-2 best-of-seven series came 5/13/03 at San Antonio (94-96). ␣ The Lakers last lost Game 5 in a 2-2 best-of-seven series AND overcame the 2-3 deficit to win the series in the 2002 Western Conf. Finals vs. Sacramento.

BRYANT PASSES KARL MALONE FOR 4th ON NBA’S ALL-TIME PLAYOFF SCORING LIST With a three-point field goal at the 2:04 mark of the second quarter May 25 at Phoenix, Kobe Bryant passed Karl Malone (4,761) for 4th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Earlier this postseason, with a fade away jumper at the 8:58 mark of the third quarter April 22 at Oklahoma City, Bryant moved past Jerry West (4,457) for 1st on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list and 5th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Last postseason, with 32 points 5/21 vs. Denver, Bryant (4,785) moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070) for 2nd on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list. Overall, in the 2009 Playoffs, Bryant moved past Larry Bird (3,897) for 6th, past John Havlicek (3,776) for 7th, past Hakeem Olajuwon (3,755) for 8th and past Earvin “Magic” Johnson (3,701) for 9th the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Next up on the all- time NBA list is Shaquille O’Neal (3rd/5,248). Among all players with 2,500+ postseason points, only Michael Jordan (33.4), Jerry West (29.1), Elgin Baylor (27.0), Hakeem Olajuwon (25.9) and Dirk Nowitzki (25.6) have a higher postseason scoring average than Bryant (25.3).

When Phil Jackson wins Game 1 of any playoff series, best-of-five or best-of-seven, his teams are 46-0, having gone 24-0 with Chicago and 22-0 with the Lakers. When Jackson-led teams open a series with a 2-0 lead, he is 35-0 all-time. And when holding a series lead of any kind, Jackson’s teams are 53-1 all-time.

With 21 points, a playoff career-high 13 assists and five rebounds in the Lakers May 19th 124-112 victory vs. Phoenix, Kobe Bryant handed out the most assists in a Lakers postseason game since Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson posted 13 assists 4/30/96 at Houston in Round 1 of the 1996 NBA Playoffs. Bryant, who has had 12 or more assists in 18 regular season games and whose previous postseason-high in assists was 11 (5/27/01 vs. SA), has posted nine double-figure assists games in his playoff career. With Bryant coming up one rebound shy of a triple-double with 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds 5/23 at Phoenix, the last Laker to post one in the playoffs is still Johnson: 6/2/91 at Chicago - 19 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists.

Since moving to STAPLES Center prior to the 1999-2000 season, the Lakers have won 84% of their postseason home games (70-13). The Lakers have topped the century mark in over half of their postseason home games at STAPLES Center (49-of-83) while the opposition has been held under 100 points in all but 24 of those games. In their last 46 home playoff games, the Lakers are 40-6 and have won 10 straight dating back to the 2009 Western Conference Finals.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Lamar Odom recorded 19 points and 19 rebounds, becoming just the second player in the last 20 years to post at least 19 points and 19 rebounds in a playoff game off the bench. Paul Millsap totaled 22 points and 19 rebounds as a reserve in the Jazz’s first round series with Denver this postseason. Prior to Millsap, the last player to do so was the Maverick’s Roy Tarpley, who posted 21 points and 20 rebounds during the 1988 playoffs. In Game 2, Odom totaled 17 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench in the Lakers May 19th victory over Phoenix while in Game 4 on May 25 at Phoenix, Odom also posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes as a reserve. With three double-doubles off the bench in this series alone, Odom has now posted EIGHT career playoff double-doubles as a reserve (31 career playoff double-doubles), giving him the most among all active players ahead of Millsap (5) and Marcus Camby (5).

With their Game 4 victory over the Jazz on May 10th, the Lakers advanced to their 40th Western Conference/Division Finals series in franchise history (30 Los Angeles, 10 Minneapolis). Currently in their 62nd NBA season, the Lakers have participated in 65 percent of the NBA’s Western Conference/Division Finals since the 1948-49 season and have advanced to the NBA Finals on 30 occasions. Since moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers have gone 24-5 in Western Conference/Divison Finals while going 6-4 in Division Finals during their time in Minneapolis. The Lakers have won six consecutive Conference Finals series, with their last loss in the Conference Finals coming to Utah in 1998 (0-4). Lakers head coach Phil Jackson is 12-1 all-time in Conference Finals series (6-0 Los Angeles, 6-1 Chicago).


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