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Stay together, fellas. This one isn't over yet.
What else can you call it? The Suns get three attempts before finally tying the game on a banked-in three, only to see Kobe so well defended that he misses so badly that the ball falls to Artest for a redemption put back.
If that's not luck, I don't know what is.
Well, the Suns were a tad bit lucky and awfully resilient to even be in a position to take the game to overtime after being down 18 points in the second half and getting totally out-played for three full quarters.
Lakers 18 to 5 second chance points. Lakers 38 to 26 points in the paint. Lakers 23 points off turnovers. 9 missed Suns free throws. Only 33% from three and many, many, many missed shots, especially from JRich who missed 5 straight before banking in that prayer at the end.
For Phoenix to have held the Lakers to 42% shooting and even been in this game was nothing short of incredible. There is no way the Suns had any business getting to the point of almost stealing this game.
But Steve Nash ... Steve Nash. 9 fourth quarter points. 4 of 5. Clutch shot after clutch shot. What a game.
If you think this loss will demoralize the Phoenix Suns, you don't know the Phoenix Suns.
"We're not going to get discouraged. We're not happy. We're not jovial, but we'll be OK," Coach Gentry joked.
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.
If you chose to dwell on missed opportunities: Two wide open threes that Frye missed late. Jason not boxing out Ron on that last shot. Robin's first bad game since returning from injury. Amare's lack of aggression and Jason's poor shooting. There's plenty there.
But not me. If this game had ended like the Game 1 blowout -- and it certainly was headed that way -- I would be disappointed and focused on those things. Instead, I am looking forward to Game 6 on Saturday with the opportunity to play better and then come back for Game 7 where hopefully, finally, the Suns depth will be the difference as the Lakers are unable to sustain their effort on tired legs. That's what I am hoping for.
... and for Kobe to start missing more shots, but the Suns are going to need a little luck for that to happen.
I hope the Lakers enjoyed their huge celebration. It says a lot that THAT team felt the need to celebrate that hard after barely winning a game that they were leading by 18 points late in the 3rd quarter.
One thing for sure, the Lakers will KNOW that they played the Phoenix Suns. Regardless of the outcome.
Ron Ron's Redemption - Silver Screen and Roll
21 seconds. That's how much time was left on the shot clock as Ron Artest launched an ill-advised three pointer which drew nothing but iron. The Suns rebounded the ball, and scored a ridiculous off glass 30 foot 3 pointer to tie the score at 101 with 3.5 seconds left. If the LAkers were to have lost this game, Ron Artest would undoubtedly have been the goat. But all that changed in 1.1 seconds. That's how much time remained on the clock when Ron Ron rebounded Kobe Bryant's attempt at a game winner. In almost a frame by frame duplication of Pau Gasol's tip in winner in Oklahoma City, Artest re-wrote his game 5 narrative. We'll have much more on the game in its entirety, but for now, enjoy Ron Ron's redemption.
Player (and play) of the Game, Alvin Gentry