LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ron Artest beat the buzzer with a wild bank shot after rebounding Kobe Bryant’s miss, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns 103-101 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, but Artest was the improbable hero with just his second basket of the night.
Jason Richardson banked in a straightaway 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to tie it for the Suns, who rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half.
Bryant missed a difficult shot from the corner, but Artest rolled into the lane, collected the rebound and threw up a hideous shot that somehow went in.
Game 6 is Saturday night in Phoenix, where the Lakers can clinch the chance to play for their 16th championship.
Steve Nash had 29 points and 11 assists in a stirring second-half effort for the Suns, who hacked away at Los Angeles’ lead throughout the fourth quarter. Phoenix trimmed its deficit to 95-94 when Nash converted a three-point play and then fed Amare Stoudemire for a layup that barely beat the shot clock with 2:52 left.
The Lakers led 101-96 with 1:38 left, but Nash hit another jumper and Artest missed two open shots. The Suns had three looks at a 3-point shot in the final seconds, but two missed before Richardson missed so badly that it banked in.
Pau Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who rebounded from consecutive losses in Phoenix with their best defensive performance of the series, forcing 15 turnovers and holding Phoenix to mediocre shooting — yet the Suns came agonizingly close to handing Los Angeles its first home loss of the postseason.
The Lakers improved to 8-0 at home, where they’ll play Game 7 on Monday night if the Suns hold serve in a series featuring five wins for the home team.