LOS ANGELES -- Lakers coach
With 1:01 left and the Lakers up by three points, Artest missed a jumper in the lane but was rescued by
The Suns promptly called timeout and Artest staggered to the bench. As he sat down,
After the Suns tied the score on a banked three-pointer by
The shot was an air-ball and Artest grabbed it right in front of Richardson, flipping it off the glass as the buzzer sounded. The shot was awkward and unglamorous, but it was good for a 103-101 win and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals. Artest rushed into Bryant's arms. He hugged it out with Jackson. The crowd, which had begged Artest not to shoot, rejoiced that he did this time. The scene was vintage Artest, converting enemies into friends in a minute flat. For one moment, the decision to sign Artest last off-season and let
"His whole career, his whole life, was about perseverance," said Lakers forward
But the Suns, who came back from an 18-point deficit in the second half Thursday, do not look like the type to wilt. This is a team whose coach,
While Gentry was nauseated, Jackson was charmed once again. He has 10 championships, many of which have been possible because of some fortuitous bounce or heave or putback. "My coaching staff says they want to live with me because I'm lucky and hang on," Jackson said. "So whatever, maybe it's luck." If he had pulled Artest, as all of Staples Center surely wanted him to do, perhaps the game goes to overtime and the Lakers lose and their season ends Saturday. But this is why Jackson has 10 titles: he always seems to make the right call at the crucial time, even when he second-guesses it.