Los Angeles star Ron Artest found his shot in the final minute of the Los Angeles’ 103-101 victory against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 27.

Los Angeles held a 101-98 lead with less than a minute in the game and plenty of time on their shot clock, when Artest took an ill-advised jumper instead of holding the ball to run down the clock. The shot missed and Los Angeles grabbed his rebound, only for fans to shout “No!” in unison as Artest took another ill-advised quick shot, this time bouncing it off the rim into Phoenix’s hands.

Phoenix took advantage of Artest’s unwise decision, rushing down court to take a flurry of three-point shots before eventually hitting one to tie the game at 101-101 with 3.5 seconds remaining.

As Los Angeles headed back down the court, most spectators expected Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to seal the win with a clutch game-winning shot. But Bryant air-balled his jump shot, allowing Artest to dart in, grab the rebound and throw up a buzzer-beater, saving the win and redeeming his earlier forced shots.

“I’m very happy for ,” Bryant told reporters with a smirk of relief on his face. “But we’ll leave it here and go up there and try to win one .” Bryant finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but said it was his work on defense and his teammates of which he was most proud.

Phoenix star Steve Nash had his best game of the series with 29 points and 11 assists. But Los Angeles was able to limit his teammates’ production, especially Phoenix’s bench, which only scored 31 points compared to the 54 points they scored in Game 4.

“Defensively, we were terrific,” Bryant said.

Los Angeles was also terrific on rebounds, as Pau Gasol grabbed nine rebounds on top of scoring 21 points, while Lamar Odom snatched 13 boards to pair with his 17 points. But Odom says this game will be remembered mostly because of Artest.

“I always remind him that this is why he came here,” Odom told reporters. “You know, to be in a position like he was in tonight; his whole career–I mean his whole life, was about perseverance, sticking with it. Tonight was a prime example of that.”

Game 6 of the series will tip off in Phoenix on Saturday, May 29.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor