All of that, and Ron Artest is the hero? I guess that makes sense in a strange, fate-driven way.
Ron went from being the scapegoat to hero in less than a minute, which I feel really good about. Except that Phoenix was the team I was rooting for. Still, for someone who gets mercilessly picked apart, this was pretty good redemption.
I mean, I don’t know if I’ve seen Kobe so happy for a teammate in his life. He knew he threw up a bad shot, just as he knew Artest took some bad shots less than a minute (game time) earlier. Kobe seems to have a pretty good grasp on basketball, even if he did step out of bounds on his shot attempt.
I felt good for Artest, even if it was a punch to the chest for the Suns, which is yet to be determined. I felt actual joy for the man. He looked as if he was a homeless man who just found the winning lottery ticket, and the Lakers still have to close the series out, which will be easier said than done against this Suns team that seemed determined to beat LA last night.
Heroics aside, Kobe played really well again. 30 points. 11 rebounds. 9 assists. How many near triple-doubles can he post in a row? Granted, a lot is helped by the Suns ramping up the possession totals, but I didn’t see Ginobili or Lamarcus Aldridge posting these numbers. Even with the zone, Kobe seems to know precisely what he wants. In 43 minutes of play, the Lakers were +4 with Kobe on the court. Not bad for someone who was considered practically drained at the start of the Thunder series.
You know who else had a great +/- considering? Steve Nash. The guy is unbelievable. His was +5, but in only 35 minutes of play thanks to Gentry’s rotations (which I’m still okay with). He went for a 29 and 11, and he had the look of an assassin in his eyes last night. Each time the camera rotated to the two-time MVP he looked as if he was going to will the Suns back into the game with simply his gaze.
His support for his teammates is already well known, as is his passion for excellence. But last night it felt different. He was being aggressive, looking for his shot as well as others. His high fives seemed to transfer meaning this game, as if to say that they could do this. They could overcome nearly a twenty point deficit as if it were only five, which against the Lakers is far from true. And he led the charge.
And let us not leave Channing Frye free from praise. He actually showed up in LA for the first time all series. He had a 14 and 10 game, which was great under the circumstances. I actually believed his threes had a chance of going in this game, which couldn’t be said for certainly the first two games and a bit of the third. He was in the game at crunch time, grabbing the clutch rebound to set up the Jason Richardson bank three that seemed more miracle than make.
The question now is, are the Suns encouraged or discouraged? Judging by post-game comments, it would seem they are encouraged. They overcame a big deficit, one that I thought would not be climbed out of on the road. They lost on a buzzer-beater by an unlikely hero after playing good great defense against the superstar. Granted, it would only have forced overtime and they were on the road, but anything can happen and they were catching fire.
This has actually turned into a series, which was not really fathomable for a lot in the media after game two. Going to Phoenix, I don’t know what will happen. I mean, Phoenix really did overcome a lot: Gentry getting sick, big deficit, fired up home crowd, the best player in the game, Sasha Vujacic. To lose that way, it has to give them confidence that not only can they win at home, but they can come back in game seven and pull this off. We can only hope.