This was the most entertaining game of the season.
Not the best played, there was plenty of slop (Vince Carter’s 2-of-13 from three) and some odd decisions — Lamar Odom, why in the name of Unbreakable are you fouling a three-point shooter up three with a second to go?
But there were also amazing plays — Marcin Gortat playing point guard, Odom hitting everything — some good defense and a whole lot of made shots over good defense.
And there were overtimes. Three of them. When the dust settled the Lakers won their fifth in a row 139-137.
Only the Suns bring this kind of play out of teams, with their open style, questionable defense and the dynamic play of Steve Nash. We are going to really miss Phoenix in the playoffs this season.
Kobe Bryant dropped 42 for the night, and in the third quarter he took over and it looked like the Lakers were going to run away with this, going up 21. Kobe had 12 points of 5-of-7 shooting in the third.
Then the Suns bench started whipping the Lakers bench. Nash started the push but it was Aaron Brooks leading a 10-0 run that made it a game again, one that was nip and tuck the rest of the way. The Lakers helped that run along by falling into the Suns trap of tempo and taking jump shots, which fueled the Suns transition play.
Odom helped keep the Lakers in it — he finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds starting for Andrew Bynum (sitting out the second game of his two-game suspension). On the flip side, Gortat had 24 points and 16 rebounds. They both made huge plays in overtime.
The reason there were three overtimes was a decision made by Odom at the end of the first one. The Lakers were up three and the Suns had just 5 seconds left to tie it. The Suns Channing Frye got a look at a game-tying three and missed it — but Steve Nash tracked down the rebound and got it to Frye with a second to go, but Frye was 26 feet away with his back to the basket. So he turned and started to shoot — and Odom fouled him. The Lakers had a foul to give – fouling a guy not in the act of shooting would have been a great play. But Frye was starting his shooting motion; Odom was just late and soft with the foul.
Frye hit all three free throws and we were on to a second OT.
With a minute to go in OT numero dos the Suns were down one and the Lakers did a good job trapping Nash against the sideline — then Nash, falling out of bounds threw a perfect no-look bounce pass to Gortat at the arc. With nobody between him and the basket Gortat pretended he was a guard and attacked on the dribble, then when the defense rotated he made a perfect kick out pass to Frye for a three. Suns up two.
That might have won it, but at the other end Kobe drove baseline, got in the air, hung, then found Pau Gasol in the lane and hit him with an amazing bounce pass. Gasol attacked, was fouled, hit two free throws and there was another OT to be played. ‘
In that one, Kobe drained a pull up three over Jared Dudley (it was well defended) to put the Lakers up by one, then Artest picked Nash’s pocket and got a breakaway dunk to put the Lakers up three. After another defensive stop by the Lakers Ron Artest hit a bad shot — a running leaner off one leg. Because he’s Ron Artest. Lakers up five and while the Suns pushed that ended up being the ballgame.
All those moments were just a fraction of the show these two teams put on. It was a game of highlights and fantastic runs.
It also was a game the Suns were desperate to have. They are now three games back of the Grizzlies for the last playoff in the West. They are going to need this kind of play — except for winning in the end — if they are going to make it happen.