Ron Artest received all the accolades, appropriately enough, after banking in the shot that won a game and possibly turned a playoff series toward the Lakers for good.
But buried amid the celebratory mass of players was Kobe Bryant, the one who misfired badly on a three-point attempt with 2.5 seconds left but continually kept the Lakers afloat against the Phoenix Suns, once again coming close to another triple-double.
He had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, the third consecutive game he's missed a triple-double by one or two marks on the stat sheet.
He didn't shoot as well Thursday as he had been this series, making 12 of 27 attempts, but he was involved in all facets of the Lakers' 103-101 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
He also had four blocked shots, aggressive as ever on defense, as the Lakers took a 3-2 series lead.
Even Lakers Coach Phil Jackson seemed to want him to get a triple-double.
"Did he get an assist on that last play? No? That was a triple-double there," Jackson said, smiling. "He played a stellar game tonight. Got in foul trouble early, had to sit a few minutes and then came back and played great."
Beforehand, as the series hung in a 2-2 tie, Jackson was asked if he could imagine Bryant logging so much playing time with such effectiveness after limping through the end of the regular season and most of the first round.
"I couldn't imagine he was playing this amount of minutes," Jackson said. "We're not worried about it now. He keeps me informed as to how his knee is."
Bryant had more than an ounce drained from a swollen right knee before Game 5 of the first round. In the conference finals, he is averaging 33 points, 9.6 assists and 7.4 rebounds in 41.7 minutes a game.
Bryant weighed in on the shot of the night, if not the Lakers' season, Artest's follow-up as time expired.
"I think it means a lot for him," Bryant said. "He's kind of been going up and down. Emotionally for him it's a big boost."
Suns Coach Alvin Gentry won't be appearing on the team's injured list, but he fell ill in the first quarter of Game 5, vomiting into a small wastebasket near the team bench.
He stayed on the bench, had an IV treatment at halftime and later blamed his condition on fried food from a nearby eatery.
Gentry seemed to improve quickly in the second quarter. He picked up a technical foul for arguing with referees.
"I was not going to leave the sidelines," Gentry said. "I told someone it's very similar to college. Once you get it out of the system, everything's OK. It's like a Friday night frat party, OK?"
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.
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