Did you hear? The Lakers took a 3-2 lead over the Suns on Thursday night on a Ron Artest(notes) tip-in. I bet you heard. You totally did. Kelly told you a lot more about the game, now here's even more from the Internet...
C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: That reaction speaks volumes, by the way. Not to be smug or anything, but the Lakers know a thing or two about game winning shots. That Kobe Bryant(notes) guy (you know, the one with the airball) happens to be pretty good at them. He's hit them throughout the regular season, and throughout his postseason career as well. The Lakers have the most memorable collection of postseason game winners this (well, last) decade. Kobe's game 4 winner against these very Suns 3 years ago; Robert Horry's(notes) 3 vs. Sacramento; Derek Fisher's(notes) .4. After each one, the Lakers were jubilant, but they've never celebrated like this. Artest was mobbed along the same sideline Kobe Bryant came so perilously close to stepping on during that final play. These guys are champions, and yet there was almost as much passion celebrating this winner as there was in celebrating last year's championship. The pundits can talk all they want about how Kobe treats his teammates, and how the Lakers lack team chemistry, but Kobe was the first person to get to Artest and embrace him like Ron Ron had just cured cancer, and the rest of the team followed suit. They didn't celebrate Pau Gasol's(notes) mirror image play nearly as much, and it's not because Pau isn't well liked. The Lakers knew how much that shot meant to Artest, and they let him know how much he means to them. It's clear that the Lakers couldn't be happier for Artest, and he clearly couldn't be happier himself.
Eric Freeman, The Baseline: For much of the game, the Lakers responded to the zone that frustrated them during Games 3 and 4 with solid offensive decisions. Pau Gasol responded to a disappointing Game 4 with 21 points (7-of-14 FG), nine rebounds, and five assists, and Kobe Bryant put in his usual 30 points against the Suns despite shooting only 12-of-27 from the field (although he did get near a triple-double with 11 rebounds and nine assists). Lamar Odom(notes) (17 points and 13 rebounds) and Derek Fisher (22 points on 7-of-12 FG) also returned to form. The Lakers shot only 41.8 from the field, but this was a relatively quality game from their most important offensive players.
Seth Pollack, Bright Side of the Sun: The bench had a horrible first half, but came back with a vengeance and shaved 3 points off the Lakers starters in 6 minutes and 38 seconds of the fourth quarter. That rest allowed the Suns to go on a 16 to 11 run before Ron's put back on the Kobe airball. There's certainly a lot to be disappointed about for the Suns. They started the game great, with incredible effort and focus on the defensive end, but the ball started sticking and the Suns got away from attacking and as a result the Lakers went from 6 points down at the 3:10 mark of the 1st to up 17 at the 5:25 mark of the 2nd. A 23 point swing resulting mostly from a stagnant offense, as the Lakers energetically denied Nash his primary options off the switching defense. After a timeout, the Suns started attacking quickly and being more aggressive and were able to cut the lead to 8 at the half. Out of the break, the same pattern emerged. Tentative play and good Lakers defense gave the home team an 18 point edge only to see the Suns, out of a timeout, refocus and start to turn the tide. The Lakers simply played harder for a large portion of the game, but down the stretch the minutes caught up with them and I have no doubt the fresher Suns would have prevailed in overtime ... if the Lakers weren't so darn lucky.
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: I could have told you when the Lakers signed Artest last summer that he'd take that shot. About every ten minutes Ron Artest is in an NBA game, he hoists a 3-pointer, and it's seldom a good idea. This has been going on for a decade. If you were a high school coach, wanting to teach your players about shot selection, these 2,690 attempts would be riddled with examples of what not to do. It's not that he's a terrible shooter. It's that he often chooses to take terrible shots. A 3 is a difficult enough shot that, unless you're truly special, you should only shoot them when the conditions are just right — when you're open, for instance, and when you're catching a good pass with balance and rhythm. Ideally, you'd also be in the corner, where the 3-point line is closer to the rim. Artest doesn't really seem to believe any of that, and as a result his career average is 34%. (He points out that he was, at one time, a 40% 3-point shooter, which is technically true. He was a percentage point shy of that last season in Houston. The only time he beat that mark was the season he was suspended after seven games and took only 17 3s, making seven.) When Artest played for the Rockets, G.M. Daryl Morey asked Shane Battier(notes) for advice in controlling Artest's shot selection, and Battier essentially advised that Morey that it was impossible, saying "you can't cage a pit bull." The thing that bugs basketball people is that Artest could make a much higher percentage. So many of his attempts are compromised. Maybe he has a hand in his face. Or perhaps he's coming off the dribble, leaning to one side or doesn't have his feet set correctly. There are just a hundred reasons to criticize the guy's shot selection throughout his career. There have been some dreadful leaners, on the run, with a hand in his face. There have been 36-footers with open teammates wholly unnoticed. He has ignored his own coach's plays, and befuddled teammates, to shoot wild 3s. But that one? Last night? Artest could not have been more open. His feet were set. It was in rhythm."
Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: 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. For the conspiracy theorists out there, Kobe's foot appeared to be out of bounds on his shot attempt, a call that went against Grant Hill(notes) earlier in the game, and the hometown scoreboard operator may or may not have started the clock a touch late.
Chris Tomasson, FanHouse: Adding to the craziness was that Bryant is the one who usually makes the Lakers' dramatic last-second shots. Now, he's missed two this postseason, the first when teammate Pau Gasol rescued Bryant with a last-second tip that won Game 6 in the first round against Okahoma City to secure a 4-2 series win. What was really a surprise Thursday was Artest actually still being in at the end of the game. With 1:01 remaining and the Lakers up 101-98, Artest missed a jumper from the foul line. Gasol grabbed the rebound and threw it back to Artest, who immediately misfired on a three-pointer from the left side with 56 seconds and nearly a full 24 on the shot clock. "I don't know why I left him in the game," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, referring to the quick launch by a guy who is a 34.4 percent career three-point shooter. "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 ballgame. A lot of hugs, and then a lot of discussion." Artest was mobbed by his teammates after the shot, which enabled him to finish 2-of-9 shooting for the game. He scored just four points in 31 minutes, eight seconds of playing time. "The last second was good," he said. "The last second was fun."
Darius, Forum Blue and Gold: Phil extended his rotation tonight and it paid dividends. On a night where Farmar (13 minutes, 0-2 FG, 0 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds) and Shannon Brown(notes) (6 minutes, 1-4 FG, 2 points, 1 rebound) didn't play that well, Phil called Luke and Sasha's numbers and got some quality minutes out of those two players — especially Sasha. In 9 minutes of game action, Sasha played inspired defense on his countrymen Goran Dragic(notes) (getting under his skin with his trademarked pestering style), made 2 of his 4 shots, scored 5 points, and had a few other hustle plays (including a chase down tip from behind on Leandro Barbosa on a Suns' fast break). I know there have been many that have wanted to see what Sasha could do with some burn and tonight he rewarded the coaches with some solid play. Whether or not Sasha can play well in his next stint is an unknown, but tonight should give the coaches some confidence to give him the chance. And while Luke didn't have a good game statistically and missed a bunny underneath, he did pick up a key charge on Amar'e and moved the ball well on offense. You know, he did Luke Walton things and overall I was okay with his brief stint.
Rob Mahoney, ProBasketballTalk: There are a lot of distributors in this league that opposing coaches should seek to "make into a scorer," as a means of halting ball and player movement. Nash doesn't seem like he'd be such a player; Steve is one of the best shooters in the league (if not the very best), and he scores so efficiently that he can carry an offense if need be. The only trouble is that history is Phil Jackson's ally in this case. Nash's game seems like it would be triumph over such a strategy (and in Game 5 it was, as Nash finished with 29 points on 60% shooting while still getting his 11 assists), but in playoff games where Steve has taken 20 or more attempts (including this one), the Suns are 3-8. Take away overtime games, and the Suns are 2-6 in such games. Stats like that aren't necessarily fair after a game like this one, but it's an interesting trend if nothing else. Don't misunderstand my meaning; this game's result is not justification for the method. Nash very nearly won the game for the Suns, and with a few more free throw makes (Phoenix shot an unseemly 20-of-29 from the line), defensive stops, or rebounds, he probably would have. This one just went the other way, despite an awfully strong performance from one of the best point guards in the game.