Andrew Bynum had fluid drained from his injured right knee today. He doesn’t plan on practicing Tuesday with his teammates, but will give it a try Wednesday. “It was getting worse, the swelling wasn’t leaving, so we had to do it,” Bynum said. “I was doing the treatment, but it wasn’t getting any better. I think it’s supposed to be pretty much fine.” Bynum suffered a small tear of the meniscus in his right knee during the Lakers’ first-round playoff victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, which has limited his mobility. He is averaging 9.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in 24 minutes during the playoffs, down from his regular-season totals of 15 points and 8.3 rebounds in 30 minutes.
PHOENIX — The Lakers are only 4-4 on the road during the playoffs, but three of their four wins have been close-out victories. They eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round in Game 6 in Oklahoma City. Then they eliminated the Utah Jazz in the second round in Game 4 in Salt Lake City. They eliminated the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals in Game 6 tonight in Phoenix. Going back to last spring, the Lakers eliminated the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Orlando. They also eliminated the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the conference finals in Denver. Overall, they have clinched in their first chance to close out a series in nine of their last 10 opportunities.
PHOENIX — The Lakers punched their ticket to the NBA Finals tonight with a victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. Kobe Bryant wouldn’t let the Lakers give up all of what had been an 18-point lead, scoring 37 points and prompting Lamar Odom to say, “Kobe is so good he makes incredible seem normal for us.” The Lakers advanced to the Finals for the third consecutive season and for the 31st time in franchise history. They will meet the Boston Celtics for the second time in three years. The Celtics beat the Lakers, 4-2, in 2008. The Lakers beat Orlando, 4-1, last season. The Lakers have won 15 championships; the Celtics have won 17.
PHOENIX — Ron Artest dismissed talk before Game 6 tonight about being a victory away from his first NBA Finals appearance. He didn’t wish to even consider the closeness of the achievement. Then he went out and showed he had a firm grasp on the situation. He scored 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the first half and helped the Lakers to a double-digit lead. Pau Gasol didn’t make a basket until there were 2 minutes, 5 seconds left in the half. Artest more than made up for Gasol’s lack of production early in the game.
Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry tossed his cookies into a trash can while seated on the bench during the first half of Game 5 tonight. After the game he revealed that he ate something that “didn’t sit well with me.” He also said he had no intention of leaving the bench. “I told someone it’s very similar to college,” he said. “Once you get it out of the system, everything is OK. It’s like a Friday night, you know, frat party, OK.”
It was a fitting ending to a game that seemed to lack clarity. Ron Artest plucked Kobe Bryant’s airball out of the hands of the Phoenix Suns and dropped the ball into the basket at the final buzzer, providing the Lakers with a jaw-dropping victory in Game 5 tonight. Artest scored only four points on 2-for-9 shooting to help the Lakers take a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is in Phoenix on Saturday. The Lakers let an 18-point lead slip away. Jason Richardson tied the score at 101-all with a 3-point that banked in with 3.5 seconds left. Bryant missed a 3 at the other end, but Artest brushed past Richardson to get the rebound and put the ball back in the basket at the buzzer.
“Just gotta continue to play,” Artest said. “I was kind of not playing my game from the beginning of the game. And it kind of carried over. So, in the second half, I was finding my way a little bit. I made some good passes and good steals and got some rebounds. So, I guess that aggressive play can carry over into that last possession.”
It didn’t look like the same game. The Lakers declined to allow the pace to be as fast as it had been in the first four games of the Western Conference finals. The Lakers played it a little slower tonight in Game 5 at Staples Center. It was a winning formula. They led by as many as 17 points in the first half. Kobe Bryant scored nine of his 15 points during a 3-point shooting frenzy over a 56-second span in the second quarter. Derek Fisher had 13 points and Lamar Odom added 12 as the Lakers attempted to take a 3-2 series lead.
PHOENIX — Here’s what Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers played some less-than-inspired defense while losing to the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals tonight: “You know, coming up here, we lost a sense of urgency defensively. I think our concentration was focused on how to attack the zone. And I think it kind of flipped our attention to detail defensively. Our focus was on the other side of the floor, which doesn’t win championships. So we need to get back to ground zero when it comes to that.”
PHOENIX — Well, they said going into the Western Conference finals that the Phoenix Suns had the better bench. Who knew their second unit could be so much better than the Lakers’ starters? The Suns’ backups went on an 18-3 run early in the fourth quarter and turned the game in Phoenix’s favor. Channing Frye and Leandro Barbosa scored 14 points apiece to spark the Suns in the fourth and enable them to tie the best-of-7 series, 2-2. Kobe Bryant scored 31 of his 38 points in the first three quarters and was powerless to halt the Suns. Amare Stoudemire led the Suns with 21 points, but was overshadowed by the backups.
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns scored 41 points on 74 percent shooting in the second quarter to build a modest lead tonight in Game 4. Incredibly, the Lakers trailed by only nine at halftime. The Suns also made 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point arc in the second. Channing Frye, who missed 17 consecutive shots going into the game led the Suns with 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting. Kobe Bryant had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting for the Lakers.