On May 27, 2010, Ron Artest caught Kobe Bryant’s shot attempt and made a putback at the buzzer to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers went into the series with their confidence at an all-time high after winning the championship the year before and sweeping the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals.
Phoenix and L.A. split the first first four games of their series, with the home team winning each contest. That made Game 5 all the more important for the Lakers as they did not want to go back to Phoenix down 3-2 in the series.
While the Suns got off to a hot start and led 17-10 early, the Lakers began to roll early in the second quarter and pulled ahead by as many as 18 in the third quarter. The Suns closed the quarter on a 16-4 run though to make it a close game in the fourth.
Steve Nash drilled a midrange jumper late to bring the Suns within three with just over a minute remaining in the game. Unfortunately, Artest missed a pair of jumpers on the following possession and then Pau Gasol missed a dunk after the Lakers got a stop, giving Phoenix an opportunity to tie it up with 17.9 seconds remaining.
The Lakers’ inability to rebound cost them as Nash and Jason Richardson both missed threes, but Phoenix continued to get second-chance opportunities. Richardson’s second attempt was a prayer from 27-feet out that was answered, banking in to tie the game at 101 with 3.5 seconds left.
As was expected, the Lakers drew up a play for Bryant to get a look at the buzzer. He took the inbounds pass and immediately went up for a three despite it not being a great look. While the shot was an airball, him going up so early ended up benefitting the Lakers as Artest was waiting under the basket and immediately went up for the putback layup off the glass, securing the 103-101 victory.
Artest only had four points on 2-of-9 shooting in the game, but two of those points were arguably the biggest of the Lakers’ season. Bryant led the way with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while Pau Gasol (21 points, nine rebounds and five assists) and Lamar Odom (17 points, 13 rebounds and four assists) also had solid games for L.A.
The Lakers went on to take Game 6 on the road to win the series, and then, of course, defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games in the NBA Finals to win back-to-back championships. Artest also hit a big three in Game 7 of the Finals, inking his name as a hero in Lakers history forever.