Heartbreak in LA: Ron Artest's buzzer beater finishes Phoenix Suns in crushing Game 5 defeat


The Suns took a collective punch to the gut during Thursday's heart-breaking Game 5 loss. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Suns took a collective punch to the gut during Thursday's heart-breaking Game 5 loss. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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.

“He just got through,” Jason Richardson told reporters. “I looked and turned and he was already heading over that way. I thought the ball was going to hit the rim. I didn’t know it was going to come up that short.”

Added Jared Dudley, “Ron was in the right place at the right time.”

The tough part for the Suns to swallow is that they forced Kobe into a ridiculously tough shot that not even he had a prayer at knocking down — and then when the ‘D’ forced an air ball it ended up benefiting the Lakers in the end.

After Dudley started off on Kobe, Hill switched onto him and Nash was in his zone as he immediately hurled up a prayer to allow for time for a rebound. If it hadn’t been an air ball — or of course if J-Rich had done a better job keeping track of Artest — they could still be playing right now.

Only moments before, the tenor in Staples Center was completely different. Instead of Kobe and Artest embracing, it was Jason Richardson spewing emotion and Robin Lopez jumping around with his teammates on the bench like a long-haired wild man.

One play earlier J-Rich had banked home a long game-tying three with three seconds left to erase a Lakers deficit for the first time since the final moments of the first quarter.

It was a breathtaking moment, as first Nash rebounded his own missed three and kicked it to an open and in-rhythm Richardson, who missed the shot only to see Frye rebound it a la Shawn Marion and kick it back out to J-Rich a la Tim Thomas and see him do exactly what Thomas did four years ago, only with a little bit of bank action.

This seemed to be the moment the Suns needed to turn the series for good. It would have been the epitome of stealing a game since the Lakers had controlled this contest since the early parts of the first quarter, the kind of win that likely would have propelled Phoenix to the Finals.

“It’s a high and a low,” Richardson said. “It’s luck of the ball, I guess.”

But there’s a reason the Lakers have now won 28 of their previous 31 home playoff games. They find ways to win, and the ball always seems to bounce their way in this building.

The Suns trailed by as many as 17 in the first half after the Lakers exploded out to a 32-9 run in the first half, and then after Phoenix cut the deficit to eight at the half Los Angeles ballooned it back up to 18 late in the third quarter.

At both points it kind of seemed like the Suns were destined to be blown out, but as anybody who has watched this squad all year knows, there is no quit in this team. The Suns just continued to chip away, mixing in timely threes (of which they hit just 9-of-27 for the game), while holding the Lakes to just 41.8 percent shooting.

Steve Nash also donned his Superman cape in this one, going off for 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting and 11 assists, making a big play whenever the Suns needed one down the stretch. Before the Richardson three, he scored or assisted on all nine of Phoenix’s points after an Amare dunk at the 4:50 mark.

It was a superstar performance in which Nash seemed to be willing the Suns to victory before they fell so disturbingly close. Nash did everything, but — surprisingly — knock down all his free throws, as he missed two of his five freebies on a night when the Suns hit just 20-of-29 (69.0 percent) from the charity stripe. In a game that went down to the buzzer, those nine misses for a pretty good free-throw shooting team are a big deal.

As Mike Schmitz writes, the Suns also yielded 18 second-chance points in a game in which the Lakers corralled 19 offensive rebounds and won the battle of the boards 49-40.

Lamar Odom beat up the Suns with a game-high 13 boards (five offensive) off the bench, getting the better of Amare Stoudemire and his four rebounds, as I write in the Daily Dime.

Both offenses declined to more typical efficiency numbers that would look good when compared to anything but the explosive figures the teams put up in the first four games, as the Lakers went for 110.8 points per 100 possessions and the Suns 108.6. It was the Suns’ least efficient game of the series and the Lakers’ second-least efficient (Game 3).

On the Lakers’ side Derek Fisher went for 22, Kobe needed 27 shots to get his 30 (although he added 11 boards, nine assists and four blocks) and Andrew Bynum missed all five of his shots in 19 minutes.

For the Suns, Channing Frye was a game-high +10 and knocked down 3-of-8 threes (although he missed a few crucial ones late) while snatching 10 boards, and Amare added 19 and three blocks.

This was a gut-punch game if there’s ever been one. The Suns were milliseconds away from a chance to steal the game in overtime and take complete command of the series.

Instead the Suns head home knowing they may have just blown their best chance at pulling off an upset in Staples Center, as they’re now in a position down 3-2 that historically ends in defeat 85.4 percent of the time.

But for now, there’s only one thing the Suns can do.

“You know, everything’s OK,” said Nash, ever the optimist. “We came back obviously with a great effort. Maybe we deserve this game, maybe we didn’t. They held home court.

“We’ll go back and do the same and we’ll come back here for Game 7.”


Tags: Jason Richardson Ron Artest Steve Nash

  • Maarten

    Kobe is in the air on that picture, you can see the shadow of his foot, clearly in bounds…

  • Nate

    If you look at this video from Yahoo of the last play, you can clearly see the reverse angle view. At about 27-28 seconds, you see kobe catch turn and shoot without going out of bounds.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/video/player/nba/20055664

  • Nate

    By the way, the clock also started on time given the ability of a human to see another human touch the ball and react to turn the clock on. It's a bang bang thing. Even if the operator took an extra half a second to start the clock, Artest released the ball with 0.7 seconds left.

    If you want to get on a clock operator, how about Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals when in the 4th quarter as Boston had possession with the clock ticking down it mysteriously stops at 8.5 seconds for at least a couple valuable seconds. That's being a bad/homer clock operator.

  • Jasper Buckleman

    Oh, calm down, Laker fans. What are you doing on a Suns blog anyway?

  • Ever

    Same thing Suns fans do on Laker blogs: check to see the other side of things, win or lose.

  • Nate

    Link from espn.com's daily dime to this blog. Since it didn't send me directly to the rest of the article, I just read the first one.

  • http://www.themaddenfamily.net Matt

    Clearly that is not the shadow of Kobe's foot. There are no shadows on the court with lights blazing. Do you see shadows under anyone else's feet?

    Does not matter, making the big play like that is what separates the Lakers/Spurs from all other west pretenders, Suns included (can you tell I am used to this by now…why do I even bother cheering). BOX OUT! What, were the Suns busy doing something else for the last second of the game?

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  • Rich

    Sportscenter did a zoomed in view of the foot, it was in.

    But why does Amare's game not travel? In three games at LA this series, he has had two games of 3 and 4 rebounds. That is so not even close to good enough.

  • SriandSidd

    For the Suns fans this is a heartbreaking loss-but that is all it is. Suns are sure to shake it off and likely get the W on Saturday and if that happens anything is possible in a Game 7 and all the pressure is still on the Lakers. There is no pressure on the Suns-no one outside of the Suns fanbase expects the Suns to win this series. For all the heartbreak of the game, to me one thing is clear-the Suns are clearly capable of winning this series. They just dont yet fully beleive it themselves. They are getting there though.. Slowly… And this Win should give them tremendous confidence…after the pain of the loss wears out they should be able to clearly see that. They are matched against a fantastic Lakers team… but I fully beleive they are slightly better overall as a team. These are my thoughts on plusses for Suns vs Lakers

    Suns – Talent – overall slightly better

    Age-Younger and faster

    Height and Strength-Lakers are clearly ahead

    Length of the Series-Lakers are getting more and more tired as the series gets longer-you can see that in the dip of their overall stats from game 1 through 5.

    Bottomline, if this goes to 7 games, Suns will win this series. Lakers best shot is to close it out in Phoenix. Suns need to stop being star-struck, fully beleive in themselves and remember to stick to their game plans (they looked completely off their game plan from late 1st qtr to later 3rd quarter in game 5). If they stay confident they will not fall behind like they did in Game 5 and they will Win. Its easier said than done, but they are good enough to get it done. If they dont, no worries, this has been an outstanding series between 2 exceptional teams.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Muhammad adam

    It’s really close,it supposed to be overtime,BUT,lost is lost,Let’s move on to the next game,GO SUNS ,GO,SUNS in 7

  • http://espn.com Bernal

    The Lakers and their experience are pretty tough in close-out games. The Sun's youth may feel some pressure and crumble in Game 6. I hope not. I'd rather see the Lakers clinch it at home (although we could use the extra days of rest for Orlando/Boston).

    I think the Suns missed 8 or9 free throws last night . Could've made a difference. Oh well…..woulda-coulda-should've etc.

  • Ever

    Really? Linking a picture that’s (erroneously) calling Kobe a “rapist”, saying his foot was out of bounds (it wasn’t) and theorizing “hometown scoreboard operator may or may not have started the clock a touch late”? You couldn’t just handle the loss with class?

    You know your Suns are going to win Game 6 in Phoenix, and anything can happen in Game 7s. Did you really need to stoop to the level of name-calling and conspiracy theories?

    What a shame for such a normally classy blog.

  • Joshua

    This series will end in Phoenix in game 6. Book it.

    Btw- Kobe is DESTROYING the Suns in the series. So make whatever silly jabs you like- he’s outclassing both of your All-Stars. Here are the facts through five games:

    FG%: 53.5
    PPG: 33
    Rebs: 7.4
    Assts: 9.6

  • Arun

    Been reading the blog for a while, the Kobe "rapist" link and 'conspiracy' stuff seems very out of character. Not sure what that's about. If that's the reaction to what was, for all us Suns fans, a d**k punch of a loss, then perhaps waiting a little while longer before posting this morning may have done some good.

    Anyway, I'm normally fairly pessimistic in situations like this but SriandSidd's post does actually comfort me a bit. This is clearly different than getting thoroughly pounded in Games 1 and 2, but this team shook off those losses (not to mention doomsayers immediately pulling out their giant purple [not 'Blue'] and yellow [not 'Gold'] brooms) to win consecutive contests at home. This team is more mentally tough than I think we (and I) give them credit for. Steve played out of his mind, and even though LA tried to cut off his passing lanes each time down the court, 2-Time still ended with 11 dimes.

    Nash knows that there aren't many opportunities like this left for him, and the same goes for Grant; I think the chances are good that the younger guys will follow their lead. Richardson is contributing and almost came up HUGE, in the opposition's house. Channing is starting to shake off the rust in general, and the rest of the bench, while not the force they were in Game 4, still managed to contribute a little bit. I'm not sure what to say about STAT but his game just doesn't seem to travel, so it's expected that he'll be better than 19 and 3 in Phoenix.

    Just food for thought for other pessimists like myself. There's still hope. We hung in there in their house, far better than they did in ours. Looking forward to a comeback in Game 6.

    Go Suns!

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  • NiceJoke

    What the hell can you actually see in that picture? Cant even tell if he's still on the floor or elevated for the jumper, clearly a very useless picture…on top of that, that angle is horrbile

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  • suns68

    This is not the time to lose faith. The Suns have shown they can win at home and play the Lakers to a standstill on their floor. The Suns are the team that's getting stronger as the series goes on. I am very hopeful they can carry this through to a successful conclusion if they stay focused.

  • suns68

    This is not the time to lose faith. The Suns have shown they can win at home and play the Lakers to a standstill on their floor. The Suns are the team that's getting stronger as the series goes on. I am very hopeful they can carry this through to a successful conclusion if they stay focused. Never surrender.

  • lll66

    Jasper Buckleman // Today at 5:53 am (1 hour ago)

    Oh, calm down, Laker fans. What are you doing on a Suns blog anyway

    The same thing the Suns fans did after your two wins over us. We’ve taken much abuse and smack talk from you guys. Multiple, multiple PHX Suns fans on the LA Times Lakers Blog since the first win, smacking our faces with our losses. Don’t think they’re all classy in PHX. It’s not the truth. Just come take a look.

    I do however, have to give your team props. They are much better than in the beginning of the year. Gentry has done a good job, and it shows. They’re hustling, challenging, and making good plays. Much tougher than I thought they’d be, given our season series record and the first two losses in LA. Good job, Suns team.

    That said, even if it goes 7 which it totally could, the Lakers should close it out on their court. It’s a pretty amazing record that Phil has, and I don’t see it being broken. Hey man, I could be wrong, but I don’t see PHX taking a game at Staples. And I do see the Lakers taking the win in PHX provided the calls are even and fair. Yeah, I said it. We didn’t lose the game because of the fouls, but the fact that Lopez can get away with hitting Fish in the head and hip checking him to the ground? Especially since Fisher didn’t even touch Nash and Nash trips on himself, falling to the ground. Ridiculous.

  • suns68

    Keep faith. The Suns have grown stronger game by game.

  • LAKER > SUNS

    you’re seriously going to blame the shot clock guy? and use some pixelated picture to say the game swung in our favor

    WTF?! How about all those damn free throws you shot in PHX …how’s that for conspiracy theorists! How about all the moving picks you get away with ..come on now!

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  • asani

    Does any suns fan have a problem with the way Gentry coached that game last night besides me? I can’t be mad at Amare because I realized Gentry didn’t want him in the game for some reason. He seems to not understand that resting his starters is bull right now at this point in the playoffs. The lineup of nash, j rich, dudley, Frye and Amare was destroying the lakers but he took so damn long putting Amare and steve in the damn game. I think his coaching is questionable. How in the hell with 3 seconds left in the game and you need a stop do you have nash in the game for defensive purposes? He sat Amare but had Steve in the lineup. If that ever happens again he needs to have a big lineup in such as Hill, Dudley, Amare,Frye and lopez. I think he had dragic in the game a bit too long without having Nash. He could have played them togther but dragic was turning the ball over way too much. Steve finally had the game I have been waiting on him to have but it means very little if Gentry doesn’t run plays for Amare as well. Horrible coaching I have to say. He ran two out of bounds plays for Frye for three point shot attempts which was stupid ass hell. Frye isn’t a come off the screen shooter he is a set shooter. That play should have been ran for J Rich or nash. I don’t like anything about game 5. He has to play Amare and Steve close to 40 min or more. This is for the damn series.

  • Jesse

    the OFFICIALS keep the OFFICIAL time. not the clock operator. not to mention, the Suns STILL had more FTs even on the Lakers’ homecourt. So know homerism crap today, ok? Tough loss, but a FAIR one.

  • Gr8 Scott

    Laker fan here – great game by both teams. As Shaq once said about Fisher’s .4 vs. the spurs – one lucky shot deserves another. Simply put, Richardson was lucky and banked in a tying 3 sending Screech Lopez jumping around again, but I guess someone never told him that you don’t play to tie. Ron Ron came through when almost everyone doubted him. I fully expect the Suns to come out with a vengeance, but my Lakers will be fine for game 6. Eventually, the refs will actually have to call a game evenly for both teams and this should help us even more. Look, we know that the refs are allowing your “bigs” to hack away at us due to the incredible height difference. But we’ve played through it and our team knows we’re one win away from a 3rd straight Finals and a crack at another back to back. I’m curious as to whether Amare will have another “lucky” game like he did in game 3. And let Dragic know that Sasha will keep him in check. Let’s see if Screech Lopez can have another 20 point game – if your bench plays well, you’ll be back at Staples for a memorable Memorial Day game. Go Lakers!

  • Mitch

    Umm… please review this video: http://lakersmedia.com/Flash/playoffs-suns-at-lakers-527-ron-artest-game-winner.html

    You can skip ahead to the 1min 4sec mark and watch from that angle. Kobe’s foot is clearly in-bounds.

    Good job linking to a classless photo.

  • Mel.

    Cripes, Schwartz. I had to double-check the header twice to make sure that I wasn’t reading some Laker fan blog, rather than the VoS. Way to funnel your angst into a curtain-call denouement for a team that–if we’re going to be technical, AND try to shuck some positive out of the negative–has VERY little to feel sad about.

    1. They nearly crowned the Lakers at Staples, something that no other team has managed to do in the playoffs. For all the pundits’ wheel-greasing about “momentum,” the fact remains that LA has a ridiculous record when it comes to defending their home turf; that the Suns came within a breath of doing so shows that they have what it takes to bring it to the wire, even in enemy territory.

    2. I dare ANYBODY, Suns fan, Lakers fan, or press-monkey alike, to look me in the eye and tell me that they thought for ONE SECOND that PHX was going to avoid a blowout, heading into the half. They looked lost and demoralized, but gutted out a performance that NOBODY would have expected.

    3. They lost on a bounce. From Ron Artest. While doing everything right in defending two players capable of making murder-shots in the final second. I don’t attribute that to anything but serendipity; a win is a win, but this “heartbreaker,” “crushing defeat,” “suicide-inducing loss” and whatever other platitudes are being belched for the Sun’s season are pretty premature.

    Let’s save the eulogies for Game Six, if the Lakers do manage to show some killer instinct and win one in PHX. And barring that, we can tip the cup in Game Seven, and sing bardic anthems for the fallen, and praise they who will be going to the Finals. But in the interim, let’s show a LITTLE objective optimism, even if we are a team whose company loves its misery, yeah?

  • Bryan
  • Displacement

    I love Ron Artest.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Everyone who got on me about the Kobe picture — I obviously don't condone the word choice used to describe Kobe in that aforementioned link. I didn't like that that word was up there, but I decided to link to it because I thought the picture added something. I have since seen those other replays and I agree that he certainly was not out of bounds. That conspiracy theory line was one sentence in a long post, so I would hope that anybody who read the whole thing wouldn't think I'm blaming this loss on a scoreboard operator or a sketchy picture of Kobe potentially being out of bounds. That's not why the Suns lost, and I feel like that was communicated through the rest of the piece.

    @Mel I do feel like the Suns still have a chance in this series. Sure, there was some doom and gloom in this piece, but I would not be facing reality if I didn't mention that this could have been the game the Suns needed to steal. In any case, I've got some much more optimistic articles cooking tonight!

  • suns68

    sorry if that seems a bit redundant. the site indicated my posts didn’t go through

  • CornFlakes

    I’ve never liked Ron Artest ever since the brawl in Detroit, but his comments today have generated my newfound hatred for him. After Nash promises the Suns will win Game 6 and force a Game 7, he goes out and cries that he and the Lakers never get any respect. No respect?! Almost every media pundit in the country picked the Lakers to steamroll to the Finals, series after series, and this series is no different. No respect?! When he has overcome what the Suns have had to overcome this season (and are STILL overcoming), then that piece of crap can talk to me. He should be satisfied for delivering the game-winning shot, but he sits on his new-found throne, acting like the world owes him everything.

    In Game 6, the first time Artest guns for the basket or jumps for a shot, someone (maybe Jarron Collins) needs to plant him on his butt HARD. Yes, Collins would be ejected, but that would be no bad news for us. It’s time Artest is brought back down to earth.

  • Mel.

    Attaboy, Schwartzy; if we don’t have you to spearhead our eternal optimism as Suns’ fans, then we are truly lost. :D

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  • dwa

    I guess its up to the refs now…..

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  • Ever

    @Michael Schwartz: Then why have that irrelevant (and counter-proven) material in the article? Either add an amendment after it stating both are non-factors, or simply remove it from the post completely. And if you don't condone that kind of language, use your own picture instead of being affiliated with one you don't approve of.

    Professionalism, please.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Ever I agree, and that line has now been taken out. I regret it being in there in the first place after more intensive review of the tape.

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