LOS ANGELES — Ron Artest beat the buzzer with a wild bank shot after rebounding Kobe Bryant's air ball, and the Lakers beat the Suns 103-101 Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference final.
Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but Artest was the hero with 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 18 down in the second half.
Bryant was short on a difficult, contested shot from the corner, but Artest rolled into the lane, collected the rebound and threw up a shot that banked 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 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 passed to 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 a jumper and Artest missed two open shots. The Suns had three looks at a 3-pointer in the final seconds, but two missed before Richardson banked it 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 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.
"It's going to be tough but we're looking forward to it," Bryant said of Game 6.
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry reportedly received intravenous fluids at halftime after vomiting into a trash can while sitting on the bench during the first half.
|Lakers lead series 3-2|
|Lakers lead series 3-2|
PHOENIX (101): Hill 3-7 3-3 10, Stoudemire 7-12 5-7 19, Lopez 0-3 0-0 0, Nash 12-20 3-5 29, Richardson 5-12 1-3 12, Frye 4-10 3-4 14, Dudley 3-5 3-4 10, Amundson 1-1 0-0 2, Dragic 1-5 0-0 3, Collins 0-0 0-0 0, Barbosa 0-2 2-3 2. Totals 36-77 20-29 101.
L.A. LAKERS (103): Artest 2-9 0-0 4, Gasol 7-14 7-8 21, Bynum 0-5 2-2 2, Fisher 7-12 6-6 22, Bryant 12-27 2-3 30, Brown 1-4 0-0 2, Odom 7-11 3-4 17, Walton 0-3 0-0 0, Farmar 0-2 0-0 0, Vujacic 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 38-91 20-23 103.
3-Point Goals—Phoenix 9-27 (Frye 3-8, Nash 2-6, Hill 1-1, Dudley 1-2, Dragic 1-3, Richardson 1-6, Barbosa 0-1), L.A. Lakers 7-24 (Bryant 4-10, Fisher 2-5, Vujacic 1-3, Odom 0-1, Farmar 0-1, Brown 0-1, Artest 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Phoenix 49 (Frye 10), L.A. Lakers 57 (Odom 13). Assists—Phoenix 19 (Nash 11), L.A. Lakers 28 (Bryant 9). Total Fouls—Phoenix 21, L.A. Lakers 24. Technicals—Dragic, Phoenix Coach Gentry, Bryant, Vujacic, L.A. Lakers defensive three second. A—18,997 (18,997).
PERKINS CAN PLAY TONIGHT: The NBA revoked a Kendrick Perkins technical foul, leaving the Celtics center eligible to play tonight in Game 6 of the East final against the Magic.
The Celtics, whose 3-0 series lead is now 3-2, will make game-time decisions on Glen Davis (concussion), Marquis Daniels (concussion), Rasheed Wallace (back) and Tony Allen (twisted ankle). Perkins (sprained right wrist) and guard Rajon Rondo (muscle spasms) are hurting, too.
"We have a lot of bumps and bruises, but we'll be okay," coach Doc Rivers said.
Rivers isn't sure what to do about Magic backup guard J.J. Redick, who Rivers said is Orlando's "most consistent player in this series." The former Duke star is averaging 12 points in the series, hitting 56 percent of 3-pointers.
"We can't know he was going to be Pistol Pete coming into this series," Rivers said.
CAN WE TALK? The Cavaliers' LeBron James, the Heat's Dwyane Wade and the Hawks' Joe Johnson plan to discuss their plans with each other before making a decision once free agency begins July 1, Wade said. Wade, a longtime Bulls fan, questioned that organization's loyalty to former players: "I think the biggest question that you think about has to be loyalty. I know one thing about Miami: It is a very loyal organization. … I don't know about the Bulls."
grizzlies: Arthur Boyd, a friend of forward Zach Randolph, pleaded not guilty to drug charges after Indianapolis police said they found him driving Randolph's sport utility vehicle with a cooler containing marijuana. Randolph, who was not in the vehicle, is not the target of an active investigation, police said.
hawks: The NBA fined co-owner Michael Gearon $25,000 for comments about James that violated anti-tampering rules.
Nuggets: Forward Chris "Birdman'' Andersen had surgery for a partially torn patella tendon in his right knee.
Timberwolves: Forward Al Jefferson pleaded guilty to fourth-degree driving while impaired and will serve two years probation.