Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns: And Artest With The Game-Winner!
That's right, Phoenix fans, you fell into the trap of believing two good home games were going to seal the series. I did, too. I thought the series had turned around. The Suns had evened it up and left Phoenix feeling great after two nine-point wins against their Pacific Division rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
There was reason to hope that this game would end in favor of the Suns, however. With less than ten seconds on the clock, Nash shot a transition three, it bounced off the rim. Then, Nash scooped up the rebound, found Jason Richardson, and another three-ball was in the air. It missed, too. It's okay, though, Planet Orange, Channing Frye had another offensive rebound up his sleeve. With 3.5 seconds left on the clock, Richardson caught the pass from Frye and nailed a bank-shot, a three-pointer, to tie the game at 101.
I looked at my dad and told him it's going to overtime as TNT showed a series of Kobe's game-winners during the season, six in all. I didn't lose faith. I figured six game-winners in an 82-game season showcased favorable odds. Phoenix had, after all, tied the game after falling behind by as many as "too" many the entire game. Destiny and momentum were both on the Suns' side. Kobe got the ball and Nash stood there, both hands up in the air. The ball flew, the ball completely missed the basket and then, in a cruel twist of fate, Ron Artest put the ball in for a 103-101 win.
Here's the question, though, for all of us Phoenix fans who have been suffering for so many years; do we feel good or bad about this game?
I, for one, feel great. Phoenix was dominated in this game, spending most of it trying to come back from double-digit deficits, so when the Suns tied it up, being who they normally are, I had no doubt we would see an overtime game with the Suns heading back to the desert with a 3-2 series lead. Wait, so I wasn't caught up in home victories? I wasn't overconfident just because Phoenix had protected U.S. Airways Arena? I was actually optimistic because of what happened in a loss? Yes! I was absolutely thrilled. Artest misses that shot 99 out of 100 times he throws it up. Artest is the last person who should have won the game, but it took him to do it.
My best friend, Mario, is a Californian living in Texas. He's loved the Lakers since he can remember watching sports and he didn't even want to talk about the game tonight. Game Five, as it turns out, made him sick.
"How can you be up by, what, 18, and then almost lose?" he asked. I understood his worries. Had the situation been reversed and the Suns surrendered such a lead at home in a must-win game, I would feel terrible winning by two points on a last-second basket by an unreliable player.
The truth is that us Phoenix fans can't be too happy, either, because we found out what the heart of a champion is all about tonight. The Lakers took our best and pulled out a victory. The slug-fest that represents tonight's fourth quarter is over and one team is standing.
Charles Barkley, a living legend in Phoenix (even named as the top Suns player of all time on this very site), said Phoenix should be devastated during TNT's post-game analysis. Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith disagreed. What about you? If you're a Phoenix fan, do you feel good about what happened in L.A.? If you're celebrating your team going up 3-2 tonight, are you feeling relieved?
I think Phil Jackson's post-game press conference says it all - Phil was giddy. I think he knows the Lakers dodged a huge bullet tonight. Only time will tell and I look forward to seeing this series pick up Saturday evening from Phoenix.
We're a long way from that expected sweep, but the work's never over.
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