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.