From Henry Abbot, Truehoop: With about a minute left in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Pau Gasol chased down an offensive rebound in the corner. Steve Nash is loaded with veteran tricks. Gasol had his back turned. Nash resolved to get a steal by sneaking up behind to poke it away. It almost worked! But at the last instant, Gasol saw the approaching Canadian and whipped a pass to Ron Artest, who was just about to ignite a hailstorm of criticism. Nash was now horribly out of position, still in the corner. Three Lakers — Artest, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant — were spread across the arc of the 3-pooint line, and every single one of them about as open as NBA players ever get.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: First things first: this series isn’t over. Granted, it might feel that way to Suns fans tonight. Just as their team was reaching out to steal Game Five, a guillotine blade came out of nowhere to chop off their hand, not only foiling the crime but leaving them bleeding and miserable. The wound won’t be easy to cauterize. All the same, the Suns this evening came achingly close to something neither they nor the Lakers have managed in the Western Conference Finals, which is winning a road game. The Lakers still need one more victory either in Phoenix, where they were deeply uncompetitive in Games Three or Four, or back in Staples in a Game Seven. Their ability to do so isn’t a given.
From John Krolic, Pro Basketball Talk: We all know who Kobe Bryant is — one of the most successful, dynamic, creative, and audacious scorers to have ever played in the NBA. Kobe’s passing has always been very good, but he’s generally preferred to take over games with his scoring throughout his career.
Yet in crunch-time on Thursday night, while passing virtuoso Steve Nash kept the Suns in the game by making tough shot after tough shot, Kobe was the one making pinpoint passes and trusting his teammates to make big finishes.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Wednesday afternoon at practice, Phil Jackson repeated one of his favorite expressions about the game, that everything can change “on a trifle.” The small things can add up. Little moments turn into bigger ones. The same can be said for playoff runs. On the path to a championship, there are those moments able to turn history if they go the other way. If the Denver Nuggets can get the ball in bounds during last year’s Western Conference Finals, or Courtney Lee doesn’t blow a layup at the end of regulation in Game 2 of the Finals.
From Rey Moralde, The No Look Pass: Every second counts in a basketball game. When players and coaches say that “they have to play all 48 minutes in a game”, they truly mean it. No better example than what happened in what was probably the most exciting game of the postseason so far. The Lakers truly escaped this one as a very game Phoenix Suns came close to bringing home a 3-2 lead back at the desert. And in a 48-minute basketball game, there are plenty of chances to make up mistakes that had happened earlier. If one player misses a shot, they can take another one later to make up for it. If one player turns the ball over, he’ll do better to finish the play and NOT turn it over. Basically, you keep playing. And this game was an example of getting second, third, fourth, fifth, eighteenth chances in this basketball contest.
From Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: It’s kind of ironic that one of the Suns’ core defensive strategies is to force Ron Artest to shoot the basketball. It worked when Artest hoisted up a pair of bricks with the Lakers up three with a minute left, but with Grant Hill and Steve Nash draped all over Kobe Bryant on his last-second fadeaway three, Jason Richardson forget to box out Artest, who swooped in to catch the air ball and in one motion flung the ball into the basket for the deciding score at the buzzer. And just like that Ron Artest, a player who had not scored on an offensive put back all series and had made just a single shot all night in eight attempts, shockingly became the hero in this 103-101 Game 5 victory that puts the Lakers up 3-2.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Basketball veterans Steve Nash and Ron Artest are both looking for their first trip to the NBA Finals. After Artest’s buzzer-beating put-back of Kobe Bryant’s miss gave the Lakers a 103-101 victory and a 3-2 Western Conference finals lead Thursday night, a stunned Nash stood under the basket with his hands on his head. Artest jumped into Bryant’s arms to celebrate the winning shot — after his seven misses in eight attempts, including two open but too-quick jumpers late in the game — having brought the Lakers one victory from their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.
From Kevin King, OC Register: The moment was utter togetherness for a team that had been out-togethered by the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals … and by a lot of teams this season, frankly. But the on-court celebration Thursday night was finally the gathering of a championship team, not just a pile of championship talent. Danger faced together and overcome is a remarkably unifying experience. “It’s part of the road to glory,” Lamar Odom said. At first, it was only the players to touch the ball on that last play: Odom, who’d inbounded the ball to Kobe Bryant, headlocked Ron Artest and Bryant while those two first embraced in the aftermath of Artest’s winning put-back.
From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: If there’s a faster point of redemption in Lakers playoff history, it wasn’t coming to mind, not after Jack Nicholson looked so stunned, Kobe Bryant looked so irritated and Ron Artest looked so confused.Staples Center had fallen silent after Jason Richardson banked in a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, not long after practically the entire crowd begged Artest to stop shooting when he missed two open looks from the left side near the one-minute mark.
From T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times: Here I’m thinking as old as he is, maybe Tony Bennett or Billy Joel sings it, Derek Fisher talking about “All I Do Is Win,” a song that says it best about what he’s done and continues to do for the Lakers. Then he drops DJ Khaled on me, and if I ever learn how to use an I-Pod, I’m sure he or she will be on it, reminding me how much fun it is to watch Fisher pick apart an opponent. I know, I know — he’s finished, the weak link in the Lakers’ starting lineup, every point guard in the league taking advantage of him, and you hear it so often you start to believe it.
From J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: The deeper these Western Conference finals go the more they feel like episodes of “Lost” with its overall theme of redemption, be it Jack, Hurley, Channing Frye or now Ron Artest. Words can’t describe the look Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave Artest as he returned to the bench after an ill-advised 3-point shot he took with a minute left in the game and the Lakers leading 101-98. And words can’t capture the sound the Staples Center crowd made when he launched it … although, after reading that the “Lost” tech guys mixed cicadas with New York city taxi receipt printers to make the smoke monster noise, I’d like to see them try. Maybe they could mix the reaction at a wedding when the bride trips and falls on her face with the screams of riders on Disney World’s Tower of Terror ride.
From Dave Mcmenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: What you’ll remember about the Lakers’ 103-101 Game 5 victory over the Suns 10 years from now will be Ron Artest’s redemption-deeming desperation tip-in at the buzzer, but that’s hardly what won the game for Los Angeles. What will be obscured and maybe even forgotten 10 days from now, after the win that puts the Lakers just one win away from their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance — “The Big Show,” as Andrew Bynum calls it — is the total team effort and increased execution that put them in position to win on Ron-Ron’s save save.
From Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: Ron Artest had just bricked up an ill-advised, final-minute 3-pointer when everyone in the Staples Center had screamed for him to chill out and kill the clock. Oh boy, here was Ron-Ron. The shot was total hubris, an unnecessary, unforced, not-thinking decision in a career defined by them. Artest had just missed an open jumper, grabbed his rebound and, pride wounded, was trying to prove something to someone. This was Ron the Unreliable. This was Artest the Headcase.
From Mark Spears, Yahoo! Sports: Jason Richardson pulled his tie straight then continued to stand stoically in front of his locker. The Phoenix Suns’ bus was idling in the loading dock, but Richardson wasn’t moving. He stared blankly into space, replaying in his head what had gone wrong. Some 30 minutes earlier, Richardson had watched his own heroic moment disappear under Ron Artest’s miracle: a buzzer-beating putback banked in after Artest had beaten Richardson to Kobe Bryant’s air ball. The shot gave the Los Angeles Lakers a 103-101 victory and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals while pushing the Suns to the brink of elimination. Moments before, Richardson had banked in a 3-pointer to seemingly send the game into overtime. Artest then turned the Suns’ elation into shock.