Monthly Archive for May, 2010

5/31 Injury Update: Andrew Bynum

60597134Lakers center Andrew Bynum had his right knee aspirated (drained) on Monday morning by Lakers team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo, according to Lakers spokesman John Black.

Bynum originally hyperextended the knee in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs, suffering a small tear of the anterior horn of his lateral meniscus.

The 22-year-old played through the injury to average 7.8 points and 8.8 rebounds against Utah in a four-game sweep, and 7.2 points with 5.7 rebounds in six games against Phoenix despite averaging around 20 minutes per game.

Bynum is expected to sit out of Tuesday’s practice, but hopes to get back to work on Wednesday, and offer what he can in the Finals against Boston. Bynum was terrific against the Celtics in two regular season matchups, averaging 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds.

“I expect that he’s going to come out and give us some really good minutes,” said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. “They may not be heavy minutes, but he has some productive things that he’s done against the Celtics in the course of the year.”

Kobe Bryant underwent the same procedure, if for a different ailment, after Game 4 of the Oklahoma City series, and has responded in terrific fashion to score at least 30 points in 10 of the 12 games since.

Kobe Sends L.A. Past Suns & Back to NBA Finals

60596465Coming into Game 6 with a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals in Phoenix, the Lakers had been fantastic in close-out games, winning eight of nine chances.

Make that nine of 10, thanks in no small part to Kobe Bryant, whose game-high 37 points included a bevy of dagger jumpers from the perimeter that put a bow on perhaps the best all-around series of his playoff career.

“What can you say about Kobe?,” wondered Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “There’s an intense game going on, and you almost have to laugh. I thought we played great defense on him, but he just made shot after shot.”

A terrific first three quarters from the Purple and Gold produced a 17-point lead heading into the fourth that L.A. had to scratch and claw to hold onto, but they did just that, earning a 111-103 win that sent the franchise to its third straight NBA Finals.

60596525The final dagger was a hotly-contested jumper from, who else, Bryant, who rose over Grant Hill’s fully extended arms to drop a deep right wing deuce that put L.A. up seven with 34.2 seconds to play.

“I just had to create a little bit of space,” explained Bryant, who patted Gentry on the butt after the ball went through. “I had a good look. Looks like a much tougher shot than it actually is. Got my legs underneath me, I was able to knock it down.”

“For that, there is no answer,” Gentry said. “I’ve always thought he was the best player in basketball. He didn’t do anything in this series against us to make me think otherwise. As a matter of fact, he probably solidified my thought process as to he’s the best basketball player right now.”

Bryant finished the series with averages of 33.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.2 rebounds, missing triple-doubles in Games 3-5 by a total of one assist and four rebounds while propelling L.A. to its ninth straight series’ victory in the Western Conference Finals.

No. 24 didn’t do it alone, of course.

A game after his buzzer-beating tip-in layup at STAPLES Center, Ron Artest was terrific throughout four quarters at US Airways Center, producing a season-high 25 points on only 16 shots, nailing four three-pointers to go along with three steals.

“Ron was spectacular for us tonight,” said Derek Fisher. “His offense really set a tone for us early. It’s key to have more than just Kobe really being the guy attacking on the offensive end.”

Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol both struggled considerably from the field (5-for-21), but were effective defensively, clearing 19 total rebounds as L.A. won the battle of the glass 41-31.

Fisher added 11 points with three assists, while back up Jordan Farmar produced eight points and five assists in 16 minutes off the bench, making 2-of-3 triples.

It all combined to deliver a Western title that the Lakers barely celebrated; they have bigger things in mind, after all.

And who else would they rather play than the Boston Celtics, winners in six over the Orlando Magic, and the last team to beat the Lakers in a playoff series with the 4-2 win in the 2008 Finals?

The Finals don’t start until Thursday, June 3, at STAPLES Center, giving the Lakers a few days to collect themselves and their bodies, before a grudge match that couldn’t look more fun on paper.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
3 Straight trips to the NBA Finals for the Los Angeles Lakers.

10 Three-pointers made by the Lakers, including four from Ron Artest, three from Kobe Bryant and two from Jordan Farmar, in 24 total attempts. The Suns made nine threes in 26 attempts.

14 Offensive rebounds for the Lakers, including five from Lamar Odom, as L.A. won the battle of the glass 40-30.

29 Free throws taken by the Lakers, one more attempt than Phoenix, for L.A.’s first advantage at the foul line all series.

37 Points for Kobe, who nailed a series of dagger jumpers in the second half to clinch the Western Conference for L.A.

Lakers 111, Suns 103: Game 6 Running Diary

60596541Lakers – Suns Gameday Page
L.A. looked to close out a playoff series for the ninth time in 10 chances with Game 6 in Phoenix. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison
Suns: Taylor Griffin

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Robin Lopez

Game 6 Video Preview
Assistant coach Brian Shaw offered his perspective on what L.A. did right and wrong in Game 5, explained why the coaching staff doesn’t mind if Steve Nash takes a high volume of shots, looked for the players to limit what Phoenix gets off its bench, praised the all-around game of near-triple-double-machine Bryant and more. CLICK HERE to watch.

60596582First Quarter
8:15 In a blistering offensive start from both teams, Kobe nailed an and-1 leaner for L.A.’s 7th make in eight attempts, but Phoenix was nearly as good in nailing 5-of-7 in a 17-all tie. Meanwhile, Bryant found himself with a bloody left hand, forcing Phil Jackson to put Shannon Brown in the game while Lakers trainer Gary Vitti stopped the bleeding.

5:21 The offense continued to come in droves, the teams combining to open 15-of-19 field goals, including a wing three from just-back-in Kobe, though Nash answered with Phoenix’s fourth three already to tie the game. Next up on the scoring platform? Fisher, who drew a foul on a three-point attempt and made all three to make it a 27-25 game.

2:19 As Gasol put L.A. up three from the foul line, it wasn’t he but Artest leading the way on O. A corner three on the previous possession had gotten the Queens, N.Y. native to 12 points, including two triples, a game after he finished with four points (two of which were just a tad important).

The quarter concluded with L.A. holding a 37-34 lead, shooting 66.7 percent in a fun period to watch. Who doesn’t like offense? That said, the Lakers’ coaches always stress defense more than offense, so the 34 points conceded hadn’t produced too many smiles from Phil Jackson and Co.

60596451Second Quarter
8:46 The Lakers had several chances to build their lead, but both Bynum and Odom missed relatively easy looks right under the rim with Lou Amundson and Channing Frye being on the very side of aggressive with paint defense. Sasha Vujacic hit a three that momentarily put L.A. up six, but Phoenix fought back to make it a one-point margin at 42-41.

6:13 The backcourt bench duo of Vujacic and Jordan Farmar offered a big boost, as Farmar’s second three followed Vujacic’s continued good defense on countryman Goran Dragic to put the Lakers up eight as Gasol, Fisher and Artest checked back into the action. Moments later, Artest dropped a three, then stripped Frye after a rebound – no one has stronger hands – before converting a lefty layup to get to 17 points himself, putting L.A. up nine. By the way, how much would you pay to see Dragic and Vujacic lead respective teams in MTV’s “Fresh Meat?” A lot, huh? Yeah.

2:00 It’s not uncommon to see Phil Jackson make sure Gasol gets a shot out of a time out, and we saw it once again, this time a turnaround hook in the lane off Fisher’s entry pass. Richardson answered with a three at the other end thanks to Nash’s penetration, but Odom then flew in for a driving layup over Hill to make it a 62-53 lead for L.A. with 1:18 to play.

0:12.9 After missing his first four shots of the half, Bryant nailed a deep, deep, deep (needed three deeps there, really) three to make it a 12-point game at 65-53 at the break. It was L.A.’s 8th made triple in 14 attempts, making up for Gasol’s uncharacteristic 1-for-4 shooting performance as Phoenix continued to collapsed inside on D.

60596452Third Quarter
8:20 Kobe pulled up on Stoudemire after a Gasol screen to nail another three, pushing L.A.’s lead to a game-high 15 points at 72-57, though Phoenix got jumpers from Frye and Nash to cut the lead back to 11. While offense continued to come easily for the visitors, getting stops on a still-active Suns’ attack would be critical.

4:35 The Lakers stayed in control, countering Suns’ points from Stoudemire with an Artest put-back layup and two Kobe free throws, getting Ron to 19 points and Kobe to 20 in a 78-65 contest.

3:04 After yet another Artest three, his fourth, Gasol hit two free throws that preceded Artest’s floating how-did-that-swish-through put-back layup that made it an 18-point game (85-67) and got Ron Ron to a game-high (and season-high) 24 points. Queensbridge.

0:36.0 Always pays to have Kobe Bryant on your team, huh? With Phoenix desperate to make an end-of-quarter push, hitting three straight shots (including a Leandro Barbosa three), Kobe buried three ridiculous jumpers, all off balance and with full defensive coverage, to keep L.A.’s lead at 17 (91-74) heading into the fourth quarter.

60596471Fourth Quarter
10:00 A very odd opening to the fourth swung momentum suddenly in Phoenix’s favor after the crowd had been entirely taken out of things in the third, as Dragic scored eight points in two minutes to cut the lead to 11. This included a four-point play when Vujacic was whistled for a flagrant 1 foul away from the ball, resulting in two Dragic free throws, then a driving layup as possession stayed with the Suns.

5:35 Nothing changed over the next five minutes as Stoudemire took a time out with Phoenix having cut the lead down to just five, with the ball, thanks to a 16-4 edge to start the quarter. The Lakers made only 2-of-9 shots, and the crowd was doing its best Oklahoma City impression as the Suns’ D was overly (and effectively) aggressive.

605968883:26 Enter the Black Mamba. After an extremely difficult end-of-shot-clock leaner from Kobe at the top of the key, Fisher nailed his own version from the baseline to keep the Lakers in front by seven at 99-92. Big shots, needless to say.

0:34.2 Dagger jumper, thy name is Kobe. Yet another absurd, extremely tough J with Grant Hill draped to his body went through to put L.A. up seven with 34.2 to play. How about No. 24? Odom would then clear Stoudemire’s interior miss, and Artest draw the ensuing foul before hitting 1-of-2 to make it an eight-point game with 22.3 left.

0:00 Your final: Lakers 111, Suns 103. Kobe finished with 37 points in the win, which sends L.A. to its third consecutive NBA Finals. More coming soon on Lakers.com.

Lakers – Celtics NBA Finals Schedule

D071577012.jpgFor the 12th time in franchise history the Los Angeles Lakers will meet the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. This will be the Lakers 31st overall appearance in the Finals. The two teams combined 32 championships have accounted for more than half of the titles awarded by the NBA.

All games will be broadcast on ABC and can be heard on 710ESPN. (All Times Pacific)

Game 1 – Thu June 3 Celtics at Lakers 6:00PM ABC
Game 2 – Sun June 6 Celtics at Lakers 5:00PM ABC
Game 3 – Tue June 8 Lakers at Celtics 6:00PM ABC
Game 4 – Thu June 10 Lakers at Celtics 6:00PM ABC
Game 5 – Sun June 13 Lakers at Celtics* 5:00PM ABC
Game 6 – Tue June 15 Celtics at Lakers* 6:00PM ABC
Game 7 – Thu June 17 Celtics at Lakers* 6:00PM ABC
* if necessary

Game 6 Video Preview: L.A. @ Phoenix


To preview the team’s first action since Ron Artest beat Phoenix on a last-second tip-in of Kobe Bryant’s miss, Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw joined us on LakersTV.

Shaw offered his perspective on what L.A. did right and wrong in Game 5, explained why the coaching staff doesn’t mind if Steve Nash takes a high volume of shots, looked for the players to limit what Phoenix gets off its bench, praised the all-around game of near-triple-double-machine Bryant, the limited contribution of Sasha Vujacic and more.

Playoff Podcast: Chris Ballard

ballard_11The first chapter of Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Ballard’s “The Art of a Beautiful Game” is entitled: “Killer Instinct: Why Kobe Bryant Wants to Beat You at Everything.”

As you might expect, we end up talking more about Kobe Bryant than anything else when Ballard joins us for Lakers.com Playoff Podcasts, and the most recent conversation was no exception.

Ballard took us through a terrific anecdote from his book about the ruthless Bryant playing 1-on-1 in high school, talked about how he’s seen Bryant develop particularly across the past few seasons, detailed how Bryant has returned to best-player-out-there status since getting healthy and more.

We also went through an incredible Game 5 (which Ballard unfortunately missed in person), chatted about Steve Nash’s ridiculous shot making, looked ahead at what’s to come in the playoffs and listened as Ballard weighed in on “Kobe vs. LeBron.”

To listen, click play below or head over to our Lakers Playoff Central page.

Phil and Kobe Selected Postgame 5 Quotes

60582850In case you missed what Phil Jackson or Kobe Bryant had to say following L.A.’s 103-101 Game 5 victory, here are the highlights from their respective postgame press conferences:

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson
Q. (On 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. We had a little session with Ron after the ball game. A lot of hugs, and then a lot of discussion.

Q. (On the game being close)
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 put 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. (On Kobe Bryant):
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. (On good fortune):
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. 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. 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.
Continue reading ‘Phil and Kobe Selected Postgame 5 Quotes’

Ron’s Redemption Gives L.A. Buzzer-Beating Win

60582420With one minute to go in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and the Lakers up 101-98, Ron Artest missed a 20-foot jump shot, then promptly hoisted a three-pointer after Pau Gasol dished out an offensive rebound with a new shot clock.

He missed, his seventh errant shot in eight attempts, much to the ire of the STAPLES Center crowd (not to mention Phil Jackson).

Over the course of the next minute, Channing Frye would brick a three with Gasol following suit on a driving dunk attempt before Jason Richardson banked home Phoenix’s third three-point attempt of their final possession (thanks to two long rebounds), tying the game at 101 with 3.5 seconds left.

Quite a bit to take in already, but still plenty of time for Kobe Bryant to nail a buzzer-beater, right?

After all, perhaps the only ending better suited for Hollywood would be Artest – seeking redemption – crashing in from the weak side to grab Bryant’s missed turnaround three-pointer from the right wing, then lay the ball in off glass as the shot clock flashed red to signify the game’s end.

Crazy, right?

Well, it happened.

60582416Artest did just that and won the game for L.A., creating a 3-2 series lead to put the Lakers one win away from their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

“As a group, it’s always fun to have wins like this at the buzzer,” said Bryant, who happened to make seven shots in the final seconds in the regular season. “Especially for Ron … I’m very happy for him.”

“I was extremely excited and happy for him,” offered Lamar Odom, who began playing AAU ball with Artest when the two were 12-year-olds in Queens, N.Y. “I always remind him that this is why he came here. His whole career, his whole life, was about perseverance, sticking with it. Tonight was a prime example of that.”

When Artest’s put-back went down, it was so loud in STAPLES that the buzzer couldn’t be heard as Artest was first embraced tightly by Bryant, then mobbed by his entire team in the corner opposite Phoenix’s bench.

“Yeah,” Artest nodded when asked if the shot were the biggest of his career. “Biggest layup. I missed a lot of layups during the regular season.”

But he made the biggest one, by a few hundred miles. Question: why was he in that position in the first place?

Artest explained that he thought Bryant was fouled on his attempt, so he “kind of figured it was going to be short, looked like he got hit on his arm a little bit … and it was a little short.”

Bryant was again brilliant in a game L.A. largely controlled (leading by as many as 18), again coming as close as possible to a triple-double with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists,* Odom had a big 17-point, 13-rebound double-double off the bench, Gasol chipped in 21 points, nine boards and five assists and Derek Fisher came through with a season-high 22 points, but it was Artest’s moment.
*Bryant missed triple-doubles in Games 3 and 4 by a total of four rebounds.

“We’re very happy for Ron because Ron’s been asked to sacrifice a lot of his game to really try and fit in,” said Fisher. “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’re so happy for him.”

“I think it means a lot for him,” added Bryant. “He’s kind of been going up and down, emotionally it was a big boost.”

60582423L.A. had led by as many as 11 early in the fourth when Bryant nailed his fourth three of the game (and 10th in two games), but the Suns refused to go away, hitting three fourth quarter threes of their own and getting to the line eight times to hang around until the final stanza.

Overall, the statistics favored L.A., as the Purple and Gold out-rebounded Phoenix 49-40 (including 19 offensive boards), won the paint point batle 38-26, committed 11 turnovers to 15 from the Suns and blocked 10 shots, though Phoenix did manage to take more free throws again (29 to 23, much to the Lakers’ collective chagrin) and shoot a higher percentage (46.8 to 41.8).

Since it won’t be remembered, here’s Artest’s final stat line for the game: four points, five rebounds, two assists, three steals, two turnovers, one block and four personal fouls on 2-of-9 shooting.

Instead, there’s just the moment when he darted into the lane, corralled a superstar’s miss and stuck it back in.

The shot instantly brought his team to its 11th straight home playoff win, its 19th all-time without a loss in Game 5′s of a 2-2 series, and delivered a chance to close things out in Saturday’s Game 6 in Phoenix.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
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.

8 Wins for L.A. in its last nine attempts at closing out a series, the only loss coming in Game 6 at Houston in the 2009 Western Conference Semi’s.

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.

Lakers 103, Suns 101: Game 5 Running Diary

60582073Lakers – Suns Gameday Page
L.A. looked to get back on the winning track after dropping Games 3 and 4 in Phoenix, pushing for an 11th straight victory at STAPLES Center in the playoffs. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison
Suns: Taylor Griffin

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Robin Lopez

Game 5 Video Preview
Assistant coach Brian Shaw joined us to explain that the Lakers need to shore up the backboards, come out with the defensive intensity that has helped the team win all eight of its game fives in the Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol era (2008-2010 playoffs) and detail what kind of adjustments the Lakers can make offensively. CLICK HERE to watch.

60581955First Quarter
9:14 A poor start for the Lakers became much worse when Kobe picked up his second foul in the first three minutes, reaching in on Lopez after he felt he was fouled on a drive through the paint. Bryant’s exit to the bench hurt the Lakers on D immediately when Jason Richardson posted up newly-entered Shannon Brown for an easy bucket. This impactful since J-Rich hadn’t even tried to post up the bigger Bryant or Artest in the first four games.

3:10 Having fallen behind by as many as seven with Bryant on the bench, a solid defensive possession in which Fisher forced Nash into a desperation 32-foot three-pointer that barely caught rim preceded Fisher’s pull-up jumper from the top of the key which made it a 17-13 contest. Bryant checked back into the game, and got through some nervous moments in the crowd by first blocking Stoudemire and then avoiding a whistle on a Nash flop/stumble.

0:02.2 L.A. couldn’t have asked for a better answer to a super slow start, finishing the first on a 17-6 run to turn a 15-7 deficit into a 24-21 lead. Fisher was the key man for L.A., scoring nine straight points himself while tracking Nash aptly on defense. Despite 36 percent shooting and Bryant’s two early fouls, the Lakers led.

60581918Second Quarter
8:55 Quick, which Lakers’ sub would you select to come in and offer an immediate boost at both ends? Odom? Farmar? Brown? Walton? Nope, Sasha Vujacic, who intently tracked countryman Goran Dragic around on defense, forcing two turnovers in the first three minutes, then hit a pull-up jumper to make it 30-25 for his team. Vujacic did miss an open corner three that would have made it an 8-point game, but Odom hit two free throws after Bryant’s offensive board to make it a seven-point lead.

6:19 The Black Mamba came out early in this one, Bryant rising to drain three consecutive three-pointers to suddenly push L.A.’s lead to 16 at 41-25, scoring just one fewer point himself in a one-minute span than Phoenix had scored in 11 minutes. Needless to say, unconscious personal runs like that can take quite a bit of confidence out of an opponent, but the Suns’ had been quite resilient against Kobe barrages throughout the series, even surviving near triple-doubles in both Games 3 and 4.

00.7 Unfortunately for the Lakers, they ended the half how they started it, squandering a 12-point lead by giving Nash a jumper, then watching Brown throw up an air ball with two seconds left. But instead of taking that 10-point margin into the break, Artest was whistled for fouling Hill, giving the Suns two free throws with 0.7 seconds remaining to cut the lead to eight at 53-45.

60582104Third Quarter
7:55 It wasn’t a great start to the period for L.A., but they managed to add two points to their lead (61-51) when Gasol dunked off the baseline on a feed from Odom. Bynum, however, had picked up two fouls on the same possession, four total, the reason Odom was already back in.

3:44 Things continued to look decidedly Purple and Gold as the third quarter rolled on … the Lakers posted a 5-0 run after an earlier 6-0 stretch to take their biggest lead at 74-56, Odom connecting on 1-of-2 free throws to reach 13 points with eight boards and three dimes. Bryant, meanwhile, was on triple-double watch with 21 points, seven boards and six dimes.

0:19.4 L.A. closed the third as poorly as it closed the second, allowing 11 points in the final two minutes and change, the Suns cutting the lead to just six after L.A. had been up 18 on that Odom free throw. While the Lakers were dominating the glass (38-26), Phoenix had been to the line the same number of times and been called for three fewer fouls.

60582076Fourth Quarter
11:10 Bryant continued to shoot the ball like Suns GM Steve Kerr from three-point range, nailing his fourth of the game and 10th in the last two in putting L.A. up 11, capping a quick 5-0 run to start the period.

5:50 The Suns refused to quit, using back-to-back threes from Dragic (his first bucket after an 0-for-4 start with Vujacic all over him) and Frye to cut L.A.’s lead to just five before Bryant’s football pass to a breaking-away Gasol resulted in a left-handed layup. The Lakers had generally controlled the tempo of the game since halfway through the first quarter, but were growing increasingly frustrated with calls at both ends (including Bryant getting a technical), to their detriment.

2:28 Things started to get on the “very” side of interesting as Phoenix cut the lead to just one when Nash pitched a tent in the paint before eventually dishing off to Stoudemire for a baseline layup with one second left on the shot clock, following his own and-1 layup on the previous possession. Bryant was furious, once again, for not getting a call while going up for a jumper, but Fisher managed to put the Lakers back up by three with a baseline jumper, reaching a season-high 22 points in the process. Then came a missed three from Frye, and 2-of-2 free throws from Gasol to make it 99-94 L.A.

0:51.5 The lead was three once again after Nash’s second straight jumper (29 points on 20 shots) countered Odom’s baseline layup. At the other end, Artest missed a wing jumper, then an ill-advised three-pointer of an offensive rebound early in the shot clock. Artest was hoping for redemption after the first miss, but it was certainly not the shot L.A. was looking for, as Phil Jackson and many teammates let him know shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, Frye missed a three at the other end with Gasol clearing the board.

0:03.5 Ready for the most ridiculous three-and-a-half seconds since Fisher’s Game 4 three-pointer over Jameer Nelson? OK…
1) Gasol got a pretty pass from a heavily-guarded Kobe while streaking down the lane, but clanked a hammer dunk off the back rim in a play that would have put L.A. up five;
2) Richardson grabbed the board, and fed Nash for a game-tying attempt from three that he missed; 3) Nash grabbed his own miss, and fed Richardson for another three, which missed so long that it came back into his own hands;
4) Richardson rose, with 3.5 seconds left on the clock, and banked in a game-tying three-pointer. (pausing for breath).

60582422Ready? OK.

5) Kobe caught the ball of an inbounds pass and whirled for a game-winning three-point attempt through a double-team, and was well short. And finally, your buzzer-beater:

6) Ron Artest flew in out of nowhere, grabbed Kobe’s miss, and stuck it back in off glass. Ensue complete bedlam at STAPLES Center as Artest’s teammates absolutely mobbed him, Kobe first to the scene embracing Artest for a long time.

What a redemptive moment for a guy that was just chastised deeply after the ill-advised three-pointer. And what a game.

Stay tuned for a complete break down on Lakers.com.

Video Preview: Game 5 vs Phoenix

Before we heard from assistant coach Brian Shaw about Thursday night’s Game 5 at home against Phoenix, Phil Jackson provided some context regarding the team’s attitude after Wednesday’s practice:

There’s absolutely no doubt that we love this. This is what champions are made of. We had this situation with Oklahoma. We had it with Denver last year in the Finals. It should be like this. This is what it should be if you have the best teams in the West going up against each other. It should come down to a challenge like this. If the teams have the grit and ability, then they’re here. Then it should come down to this kind of a challenge. We want to accept that and go forward.

To do so, Shaw explained that the Lakers need to shore up the backboards, come out with the defensive intensity that has helped the team win all eight of its game fives in the Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol era (2008-2010 playoffs) and detail what kind of adjustments the Lakers can make offensively.

To watch, click play above or head over to our Lakers Gameday page.