A game winning shot can erase a ton of mistakes, and that’s exactly what Ron Artest delivered. His put back layup as the clock expired gave the Lakers a 3-2 series advantage and a kiss from Lady Luck.
1st Quarter Recap
10:02 nearly two minutes of game time had elapsed and the Los Angeles earned their first points of the game on a Kobe Bryant bucket. 9:25 Kobe picked up his second foul and left the court for the bench. 8:15 Lakers were already over the foul limit. Phoenix would shoot free-throws the rest of the quarter. 8:05 Lopez earns his second foul for Phoenix and has to sit out. Lakers began the game shooting just 1 of 9. 5:15 Kobe returns to action playing with two fouls. 4:45 The first sighting of Suns Zone defense. Lakers end the quarter on an 11-2 run to hold a 24-21 lead.
2nd Quarter Recap
8:04 Suns’ Lopez is blocked at the rim twice by Brant and Andrew Bynum. 7:18 Lakers surge ahead 35-25 on Kobe Bryant’s 3-pointer. Steve Nash re-enters the game for Phoenix and quickly the lead is evaporated. Kobe Bryant responds by making three 3-pointers in a row to build up the lead again to 41-25. Ron Artest made a bone-head play (no to be last in the game) with .7 seconds remaining, to pick up his 3rd foul and allow Phoenix to cut the lead to 53-45. Suns finished the 2nd quarter on a 17-8 run after being down by 17 points. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant led their teams with 15 points each. Lakers Bench outscored the Suns bench 16-2 in the first half.
3rd Quarter Recap
6:51 Lakers led 65-51. 3:36 Lakers gain largest lead of the night by 18 points 74-56. Suns would respond with a 16-4 run to trail at the end of 3 quarters by just 6 points 78-72. Through the first three quarters the Lakers had 16 second chance points, and zero for the Suns.
4th Quarter Recap
7:00 score 58-53, 4:00 score 93-89, 3:30 95-92, and still only a 3 point game with one minute left to play in the game. With the Lakers holding the 3 point lead, and a new shot clock Ron Artest decided to launch a 3-pointer rather than wind down the clock, to the shock of every basketball coach in the universe. Once again Ron Artest came up with a significant defensive rebound in the final minute of a playoff game, this time with 36 seconds left in the game. Odom would finish the game with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Pau Gasol missed a dunk that would have put the Lakers up by 5. Instead it gave Phoenix one last chance to tie the game. After two misses and offensive rebounds, the Suns Jason Richardson’s near half-court bomb banked in to tie the game with just 3.5 seconds left in regulation. Kobe Bryant curled off a screen to the ball, caught it, spun, and launched an air-ball. At the same time Ron Artest sprinted from the left corner of the court to get the offensive rebound on the right side of the rim and put it back in as time expired, giving the Lakers the 2 point victory, and series 3-2 lead.
Game 5 Analysis
The Lakers knew they needed to play inspired defense and limit second shot opportunities. They did that in Game 5 by winning the rebounds 49-40, 19-12 offensive rebounds, and 18-5 second chance points. Lakers also won the points in the paint 38-26. Free-throws were a significant difference in the outcome of the game. Lakers shot 87% 20 of 23, while Phoenix missed 9 free-throws 20 of 29 for just 69%. Three-point edge went to Phoenix with 9 of 27. 33% is low for the Suns and that helped the Lakers who shot 7 of 24 (29%) themselves from downtown. The Lakers led by as many as 18 points but Phoenix was still able to climb back to tie the game in the final seconds. 103-101 final score is the lowest for both teams in this series. That is an advantage for the Lakers.
Game 6 Prediction
The Phoenix Suns have proven they are a championship level team. The Lakers have shown they are vulnerable. Mix in a degree of disappointment for the Suns for losing game 5, and add a must-win reality and you have considerable pressure on Phoenix tonight. The Lakers want to close out the series tonight after seeing the Boston Celtics lock in their 2010 NBA Finals appearance last night by eliminating the Orlando Magic. But they don’t need to feel pressured. The Lakers only need to win their home games to win the series. Kobe Bryant is having perhaps his best playoff series ever. Tonight he could rip the heart out of Phoenix with a monster game. Game 6 Prediction: Kobe gets 50 – Lakers win by 1.