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Reliving Lakers' clutch shots in 2010 playoffs

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has been down this path many times before, witnessing clutch performances from the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry.

But even if the Zen Master has witnessed and been the beneficiary of plenty of game-winning shots along with his 10 championship rings, he shared Friday that it's actually the missed shots that stay with him the most.

Nonetheless, with Ron Artest's game-winning put-back in the Lakers' 103-101 Game 5 Western Conference Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns, it's leaving many reflecting on numerous clutch performances. The Times' Mike Bresnahan ranks Artest's shot as one of the best in Lakers playoff history, as does The Times' Mark Heisler. The Times' Fabulous Forum blog also has a poll asking the fans which buzzer-beater ranks as the best in Lakers' playoff history.

Interestingly enough, the Lakers' current playoff run has included two buzzer-beaters and two other games that featured clutch shots in the waning moments. Below is a breakdown of who filled that role and how.

May, 29, 2010: Lakers' 103-101 Game 5 victory over Phoenix Suns in West Finals

Artest instantly emerged from being the team's scapegoat to becoming the team's hero. He launched an ill-advised three-pointer in the final minute as the Lakers nursed a three-point lead with 22 seconds on the shot clock. He then responded with a put-back off Bryant's missed three-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining.

The second the ball dropped through the hoop, forward Artest jumped into Bryant's arms. Lamar Odom quickly joined in, wrapping his arms around the back of Bryant's head and over Artest's shoulder moments before the rest of the team joined the celebration. Shortly after, Artest stormed out of the entrance tunnel as the 18,997 at Staples Center roared in elation.

"Biggest layup," Artest said regarding his put-back. "I missed a lot of layups during the regular season. Previous teams, I made more jumpers and layups. But now I'm missing jumpers and missing layups. But you know just staying with it. Staying with it and trying to stay focused. And just trying to play my part and see what happens."

May 8, 2010: Lakers' 111-110 Game 3 victory over Utah Jazz in Western Semifinals.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher entered the postseason riddled with similar questions as last season, including his age (35), inconsistent shooting and struggle to defend quick guards.

But in Game 3, he proved how he can still make a difference. He drew charges, resulting in Utah guard Deron Williams getting into foul trouble. He made shots, finishing with 20 points on seven of 13 shooting, including a three-pointer that gave the Lakers a 109-108 lead with 28 seconds remaining. And he made defensive stops, such as disrupting Carlos Boozer on a missed layup on the following play.

Although Fisher's performance helped silence a bitter and antagonistic Utah crowd, it's a shame Utah's fans treated him with such hatred when his departure hinged on his daughter's health.

"I would venture to guess that if I was a construction worker ... who requested a transfer to another department for the betterment of his family, I would be commended for it," Fisher told The Times' Bill Plaschke. "But because it's sports, there's just so much passion added to it."

April 30, 2010: Lakers' 95-94 Game 6 first-round victory over Oklahoma City

With the clock winding down, Bryant brought the ball up the floor, and looked to fulfill a role many expect from him. The Lakers trailed by one in Game 6 against Oklahoma City with 14 seconds remaining, and what better way to end it than having the Black Mamba orchestrate another game-winning shot.

As ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said as the game neared its final stages, "Put the ball in the best player on the floor's hands and live with the results." So with 6 seconds remaining, Bryant drove past Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook toward the near baseline. Bryant stopped short of the lane and squared up along the near post, pump faked and then pulled away for a fade-away jumper. The shot rimmed out, but Lakers forward Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and gave the Lakers a one-point lead with half a second left. Following the timeout, Westbrook's missed three-pointer from the far corner made the Lakers' 95-94 series-clinching victory official, marking the third consecutive year the Lakers advanced past the first round of the playoffs, the team's seventh victory in the last eight close-out games and improving the team's record to 28-14 in close-out games during Bryant's 13-year career.

The last play perfectly served as a microcosm of the entire game. It featured plenty of heart-pounding moments. The result proved unpredictable. And the Lakers managed to stave off a loud and blue Oklahoma City crowd because of various contributions. So it was only fitting that on a play that appeared to mark Bryant's seventh game-winner this season, Gasol helped recover from Bryant's missed shot. Gasol had only nine points on four of 11 shooting, but finished with 18 rebounds, including the last one that ultimately decided the game.

"I kept battling, kept hustling," Gasol told reporters. "Luckily, I pursued that ball and I put it in."

Instead of answering questions about his fractured right index finger, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fielded questions about his fourth-quarter dominance in the Lakers' 95-92 Game 2 victory over Oklahoma City. Instead of Lakers Coach Phil Jackson citing how the Black Mamba needs to alter his shot selection, the Zen Master quoted Mark Twain to suggest he was wrong after all. Instead of expressing annoyance over all the questions regarding his health and player capabilities, Bryant now found them "amusing" and "entertaining."

The Lakers' victory gave the team a 2-0 series lead, but the performance raised several issues, what with the team's experience coming into play in the final minutes against a team that's struggled securing close games, whether the Thunder's 17 blocks is a sign it has found a way to neutralize the Lakers' inside presence and whether the Lakers can get by with only Bryant (39 points) and Gasol (25 points) leading the way. But Bryant properly answered that all he needed was a fourth-quarter surge to get his rhythm back, which entailed scoring 15 fourth-quarter points on four of eight shooting.

Said Bryant: "After 13 years, you think they'd know better."

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

 
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Even dominant winning teams, such as the ones Phil seems to coach. Still need the occasional miracle of the last second variety.

And for some reason, many of the most memorable ones come deep in the playoffs, AND almost always end up in the Lakers favor.

Accident, coincidence, luck? Not at all. As Phil said, all the developing factors and percentages of the game come into play. Which allow for that 'one last chance' moment to play out.

Who's going to make that special miracle moment of 'the shot' tonight? Hopefully no one. As its my prediction that all those factors and percentages, have the Lakers up by 12 when that final horn sounds on the Suns.

sorry laker fans but lakers need an almost flawless game of execution tonite to win in phoenix.. i'm talkin jumping out to an early lead.. dominate from start to finish and not letting the suns stay close... put that choke hold on early... cause once and if suns take that lead expect WHISTLE WHISTLE and more WHISTLES.. refs will make sure they dont lose it.

GO LAKERS!

yellofever:
I totally agree with you. It's sad that the refs play such a huge role in the outcome of the games.

KOBE v. LEBRON . . .

I thought the post by Wes was excellent in the previous thread regarding the comparisons of Kobe and Lebron. As I read it, I had a "new thought" that suddenly gave me even more clarity on this topic.

For years I have viewed Kobe as the better basketball player, and Lebron the better athlete. Kobe jumps high, Lebron jumps higher. Kobe is fast, Lebron is faster. But, Lebron can shoot, Kobe is a better shooter. Kobe plays smarter. Lebron is stronger. Back and forth the argument goes.

Remember back in the early part of the decade when we used to accept the analysis that Kobe was the BEST player and Shaq was the MOST DOMINANT player in the NBA? There was room for BOTH.

Building on that idea and how it applies to Kobe v. Lebron, I considered the Point Guard debate. Who is better, Nash or Deron Williams? Nash is fast, Williams is faster. Williams can shoot, Nash is a better shooter. Nash has better skills. Williams has more strength.

Ironically, the TWO MVP'S of Nash seem to not count for much in the "best point guard" argument. Yet, the TWO MVP'S of Lebron seem to count for everything.

Honestly, do TWO regular season MVP'S out-value the worth of FOUR RINGS? It seems that the knock on Nash is that he may have MVP'S, but no rings; thus keeping him out of the "best point guard in the game" discussions. Funny how the same standard does not apply to Lebron.

Anyhow, when trying to determine the best basketball player at the point guard position, you end up with "best player" versus "most dominant player" differences.

Kobe was a better basketball player (skills) than Shaq. Shaq was more dominant than Kobe.

Kobe IS a better basketball player than Lebron. Lebron is more dominant than Kobe.

But here is the ultimate test. Complain about supporting cast all you want, but facts are facts. Kobe has FOUR RINGS and Lebron has ZERO.

Consider arguments on Wilt Chamberlain v. Bill Russell as the "best ever" and how many rings were won factor into the discussion. Wilt had TWO, Russell TEN. For many ~ end of discussion.

So if you think Williams is better than Nash, my suspicion is you go with Lebron over Kobe. And vice versa... (unless you are a die-hard Laker fan, then Kobe wins no matter the argument! lol).

Mike

Bynum showed improvement in game 5. I like his defense better than Gasol's.
Nash made all of his shots when Gasol ended up guarding him from a switch. Bynum blocked a jump shot through a switch. He was also quicker that time covering the lane. Gasol, late in the game, was avoiding fouling.

Posted by: MTI312 | May 29, 2010 at 09:06 AM

random thoughts:

The NBA always have a feature during holidays such as Christmas Day. However, if the Suns win tonight that means there will be a game on Memorial Day. Otherwise, if the Lakers win that means no game until June 3.
Maybe Nash knew this.

Fatty:

You wrote: Even dominant winning teams, such as the ones Phil seems to coach. Still need the occasional miracle of the last second variety.

Response: Yeah, winning a championship needs, good health, talent, chemistry, Zen coach & staff, good GM, sugar daddy (Dr. Buss), fan support and lastly a very critical component, the intangible 'Luck" or miracle.

LakerMIKE:

Topic of LBJ versus Kobe is a THANG of the past, besides no comparison until LBJ wins at least 4 or more titles. Until then a great show is coming to town, rivalry for all ages is about to be resurrected Lakers vs Celtics, stay tuned.

LakerMIKE:
minor correction, Russell won 11 rings.

Long time lurker, first time poster.

Best blog anywhere. Ring number 16 is coming!!

OOPS . . .

LakerMIKE:
minor correction, Russell won 11 rings.

Posted by: rdlee | May 29, 2010 at 10:55 AM


Thanks RDLEE . . . I stand corrected!
Mike

I know Kobe will come with his game, but I'm not so sure about others (Fisher perhaps the exception). I don't want to be Debbie Downer, but thinking Suns win tonight and we will need to play very hard and well to win game & at home. I just don't think that most of our guys realize the urgency of NOW. The Celtics did (bench included).

We`re just a lowly #4 seed, checking off our "To Do List" :

D-Wade.......CHECK
LeBron........CHECK
D Howard....CHECK
Kobe/Nash.............

Always be careful about counting those chicks, ha, ha!

Top 10 excuses Suns fans will give for losing Game 6.

10) Stoudemire was distracted: "Hey baby, you so hot you should be a Laker Girl!"

9) Steve Nash skinned his knee from falling down while running to the bench during a time-out.
8) Then he skinned the other one during another time-out.

7) Phil Jackson got into Drajic's head when he told AZ Republic's reporter: "Vlade could flop better than Drajic."

6) Suns got distracted because their fans kept screaming, "We want Orlando!"

5) The uniform guy screwed up and forgot the cute skirts for the players when the coach yelled "GIRLIE DEFENSE GIRLIE DEFENSE!!"

4) SB 1070. Los(t) Suns

3) Those weren't "Los Suns." Turns out "Planet Orange" is really 12 illegal immigrants who escaped from Sheriff Joe's tent city who took to the court.

2) We didn't have all of our players. (Alvin Adams, Dan Marje, and that other loser, Charles Barkley)

1) It was the Laker's for Christ's sake!


Red's Love Child,

Great to have the Celtics in the finals. Just wondering, considering you mentioned Nash, did you go on the Suns site and post the same thing?

VMan,

No, never been there....hard to get too worked up over the Suns.

I fully expect the Celts to be playing in LA on Thursday.
Not sure if LA eliminates Phoenix tonight or Monday.

Hey guys we got a new post up

MM

I hope the Lakers wraqp it tonight, but I feel the Suns at home, their momentum after clawing their way back from an 18 point deficit late in the 3rd will be just enough to force a game 7 out here. Oh, & the refs have not yet let them down - total FT attempts thru game 5 are:
Suns have 48 more FTA's than the Lakers - while it's not Denmark, there is something certainly rotten going on!
A glaring example I wrote about yesterday in the Magic -Celtic game: Late 3rd, Carter goes up for a lay up, left side of the hoop, it is clearly goaltending as the ball was banked, yet 3 officials didn't see it ?! Please, there is something very, very fishy about the job these refs are doing! And if not mistaken, the refs assigned these playoffs, are chosen by the job performance during the regular season & if this is the best the NBA has to offer, then the league is in serious trouble.

Attention to all the Lakers fans who were rooting for the HATED C'S to make it to the final, well your desires has manifested and became reality. Your reasoning...we have home court, we want payback, well our beloved Lakers are not playing to well at this point. No real inside toughness (Bynum still hurt), outside shooting very shaking (LO, Thriller). AS I'VE ALWAY SAID, NO TRUE LAKERS FAN NEVER; EVER ROOT FOR THE HATED C'S. You just don't give evil energy.

Given what we saw in Games 1 and 2, the only way the Suns advance is if the Lakers beat themselves. In terms of talent and strength, the Suns, although a good team, aren't better. Sure, anything can happen, and often does, but generally the team with the better players win. Going this deep into the playoffs, the Lakers have much more experience, so you have to factor this as well. Can the Suns hold up under the pressure? Is Steve Nash really the Jerry West of his era? He'll need some bling to make the case. Anyway, as J-Rich noted, it's all about determination now. IF Laker A-team shows up as in Games 1 and 2, Lakers by 12 in Game 6. If not, then it'll be a route in Game 7.

Tom Tom,

"Okay, the nightmare is over. The teams that could have beaten us like Denver, Dallas and Cleveland were eliminated by others for us and left us with the easiest playoff games from either confernce. This is our year, and we can do it all, and go all the way. But we need to changes for the next year, because we might not be so lucky again!

So go Lakers Go"

I kind of agree with you, it would have been much more difficult to face Denver, Dallas, and Cleveland. However, I still think we would have beaten all three if we had met them.
Haha

well i think that when the lakers andvance to the finals there going to have a really hard series in front off them Them C's are a scary team every one counted them out i know i did but look there in the finals and there not backing down so Pau your going to have to stop being a Big P***y and man up garnet punked you around the last time around.has for bynum he should have rested this last few games but whatever has long as he shows up big then will be ok .dont get me wrong im a huge laker fan and i love my team but they have to play hard the whole team cant get punked like the last time they have to be the once punking them C's Peace out

Chasing 23 posted all of Kobe's makes and misses throughout the playoffs: I am a Laker fan, but hard to ignore the evidence:
http://chasing23.com/2011/02/the-myth-of-playoff-kobe/


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