Ron Artest stumbled into Los Angeles Lakers playoff lore with a remarkable bank shot to beat the Phoenix Suns.
Artest rambled into the lane and beat the buzzer with a wild shot after rebounding Kobe Bryant's miss, and the Lakers edged the visiting Suns, 103-101, last 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 the improbable hero of Game 5 was the only new player on the defending NBA champions' roster. Artest's rebound score completed a 2-for-9 shooting night during an otherwise awful performance redeemed by a heady offensive rebound.
"He has an uncanny knack of doing things, and sometimes it just works out," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He just has a knack for being around crucial plays."
Jason Richardson banked in a straightaway three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to tie it for the Suns, who clawed back from an 18-point deficit in the second half.
Bryant then missed a difficult shot from the sideline, but Artest collected the rebound and raised to his tiptoes while throwing up a hideous shot that somehow went in. Artest, who missed two open jumpers just a few seconds earlier, grabbed Bryant in a joyous bearhug while the Staples Center crowd went nuts.
Game 6 is tomorrow night in Phoenix, where the Lakers can clinch the chance to play for their 16th championship.
"It's going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it," Bryant said.
* Boston's Kendrick Perkins will be eligible to play in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against Orlando tonight.
The NBA said that one of the two technical fouls Perkins received in Game 5 was rescinded. That means Perkins hasn't hit the mark of seven technicals in the playoffs that would lead to an automatic suspension.
Boston leads the series, 3-2, but Orlando has won the last two games.
Backup Glen Davis was diagnosed with a concussion and is likely to miss the game after blacking out on the court from an inadvertent elbow to the face in Game 5.
* Arthur Boyd, a longtime friend of Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, faces drug charges after Indianapolis police said they found him driving the NBA star's SUV with a cooler containing marijuana. Boyd was arrested after police investigated an informant's tip that Randolph was involved with Indianapolis-area drug dealers, according to court documents. Boyd has pleaded not guilty to drug charges.
* Timberwolves forward Al Jefferson will serve 2 years' probation as part of his sentence for driving drunk in February.