Surrounded by downtown Los Angeles or the Phoenix desert, dressed in their yellow, white or purple jerseys, it doesn’t matter much to the defending Champions. Having closed every series in the Playoffs away from the comforts of Staples Center, the Lakers have proven that when it comes to winning, time, location, or uniform is but a trivial circumstance.

Tonight, faced with a Phoenix Suns team determined to take back a win they felt they should have gotten in Game 5, the Lakers were prepared to close the series on the first try. There would be no Memorial Day game. There was only tonight.

Both teams scored easily in the first quarter. Andrew Bynum looked limber, scoring over Robin Lopez and causing the Suns center to commit two early fouls. Bynum finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. The game was tight at the onset, leads changing, neither team creating any large leads due to the each others hot shooting. Particularly hot-handed was Ron Artest who scored 12 points in the first quarter.

Still high from hitting the game winning shot in the Game 5 thriller, Artest was a confident and determined man on the floor. Whether he was left wide open from downtown (4-7 from behind the arc), or rebounding missed shots for second chance opportunities (25 points on 10-16 from the field); whether he was stealing the ball from under Channing Frye’s arm to make up for a blank possession or closing in on Suns’ scoring machines Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Richardson, Artest was a perfect image of effort meeting efficiency. With Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom unable to contribute to the Lakers’ offense, Artest was a true complement to Kobe Bryant.

Completely outshined by the Suns’ reserves on their last visit to Phoenix, the Lakers bench, though outscored 36-22, was ready to chip in. Jordan Farmar hit two from downtown in the first half, over Jared Dudley and Robin Lopez, and handed out a team high five assists. He directed the offense and hit a timely jumper in the fourth quarter after the offensively onslaught from Goran Dragic. Lamar Odom only scored six points, but he also had a team high 12 rebounds.

After 24 minutes, the Lakers held a 12-point lead and were shooting 53% from the field to Suns’ 46%.

In the third quarter, it appeared as if the Lakers had the game well in their favor. They were playing with energy on both sides of the court, clearly fighting for every rebound and smothering any Suns attempt to score. In one sequence, Odom rebounded a missed Farmar three, passed it to a running Artest, who swung his left arm and scored two points. With baseline jumper from Kobe to end the third, the Lakers held a 91-74 lead and the NBA Finals were only 12 minutes away.

Unfortunately, the Phoenix Suns were never a team to shy away from challenge. Just as they did with the 18-point lead that the Lakers had built in Game 5, they chipped away with the help of reserve point guard Goran Dragic who scored eight straight points to cut the deficit. Sasha Vujacic, clearly no friend to his countryman, was called for a flagrant-1 after elbowing Dragic in the chin. It was the clear momentum changer and Phoenix took advantage, able to cut the lead all the way to three points.

During a timeout, Phil Jackson said to his players as they approached the bench, “”Don’t try to do everything on your own. Let’s get it together as a team. Now we have to play with the poise that we have.”

And they showed it, that championship poise, led by the usual suspects, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.

“The trust that Phil has shown in me over the years, and the trust that Kobe Bryant shows in me,” Derek Fisher said after the game, “I want come through for those guys.”

And did he ever. Fisher scored on a jumper late in crunch time, something he’s familiar with. He then followed that with an offensive foul call on Amar’e Stoudemire. Bryant hit a one-handed tosser to beat the shot clock buzzer and then passed to Fisher for a running jumper. Bryant then followed that with a baseline jumper and then, the dagger, a double-pump by the Suns’ bench, over the defense of Grant Hill giving the Lakers a 107-100 lead with less than a minute to go in the game. Despite a Steve Nash 3 to cut the lead to 108-103, it was obvious where this game was headed.

“Every time we got it close, Kobe made an incredible tough shot and for that there is no answer,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “What can you say about Kobe? There’s an intense game going on, but you almost have to laugh at what he does.”

And because of what he does, the Lakers are set for their third trip to the NBA Finals in three straight seasons.

Now begins a new mission. Call it what you want — an opportunity for revenge, a mission for redemption, a challenge, like Bryant said, to see how much the team has improved from their last Playoff meeting. In the end, however, there is really just the ONE GOAL.

“The challenge is to win a championship,” Kobe Bryant said from the post-game podium. “And the Celtics are in the way.”

The road to title number 16 begins now.

Pre-Game Thoughts: A.B.C. — Always Be Closing

Half-Time Thoughts: Lakers are up by 12 points. Ron Artest is leading all scores with 17 and they’re 8-14 from downtown! Wow!

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Sasha Vujacic for picking the Suns up when the Lakers had them down. It doesn’t matter that Dragic deserved an Academy Award. That was a thoughtless move during such a crucial game when the margin for error and boneheadedness is tiny.

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Ron Artest — for maintaining his momentum from Game 5. Talk about maximum effort and intelligence out there on the court!

  • ilkebasketball

    revenge! revenge! revenge!

    this couldn’t be written better.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Is it too much to ask for a 40 point beating of our own? We owe Boston one, after all.

  • mr.laker19

    when its all said and done, there will be a level in the hall of fame with two faces, jordan, and kobe bryant. But there is only one team that is on top of sports and thats the Lakers, so lets beat these gay leprechauns. The difference between us now and in 08 is that we are clearly the best team in basketball, that year we were only second best and it was obvious. So lets go out and prove it on the court starting Thursday. Congrats but lets keep goin and finish the job. LETS GO LAKESHOW!!!!!

    • alife

      thats true bro but comparisons cant be made to the 08. yeah, we’re better. but bostons beastin` as well.

      we clearly had the advantage in the season series despite it going 1-1. but boston took out a cavs team and magic, whom were pretty dawm good against us lakers in the reg season. so they are a newly revived team basically.

      we are too though. its going to be a good series and i hope i dont get a heart attack when things go down to the wire. i cant fathom the lakers and kobe losing again to boston again though. youre right man, LAKESHOWs gonna bring it

      • seankobe

        no people were better than the celts that 08 finals, game 2 is decided by the refs but I don’t know exactly what happen in game 4 probably a little help too from the refs, somehow there should be a game 7 that year,but it’s already past but i don’t accept that we lost that year because their a better team…yes game 6 that year we lose but not games 2 and 4!

        • dont 4get bynum

          we didnt have bynum that year and if only he was healthy this year we would dominate those irish bastards

        • OCdude

          completely agree w/ u there seankobe.. i’ll never forget game 2..

  • alife

    that was a great game. got my heart pumping and me rushing and what not

    no disrespect to the only black mamba found in arizona (kudos to barkley finally believing in kobe), but although he made those unbelievable shots, dfish and ron artest were the stars. kobe is on another echelon and a given so runners up dfish and artest do not get enough credit. there was one point in the game where the momentum was slowly moving towards phoenix. they made plays after plays. while lakers missed and missed. come big fish and made a rainbow just inside the arc to calm the storm just before kobe came back in. him, and artest’s big steal and unorthodox left hand layup. all artest needs is confidence from his coach and fans and he’ll knock them down without hesitation. but at times, you know, he gets mental lapses and brain farts, hence his back breaking shot and brick in game 4. but yeah, this doesnt deter kobe’s greatness but its good how the rest of the team just doesnt fall asleep when kobe has the ball.

    feel bad for steve nash and the suns though. they are a great ball club, not to mention they are a comedic group of guys (rofl@nash’s youtube videos). nash promised a win, but i think it was more of a notion to get his team pumped up and not play as if they are the weaker team. sucks he getting heat for it though because nash played great.

    good series. good western playoff run. faced a youthful team, tough and gritty team, and a talented, spirited team. now its time to get boston and bring home the hardware

  • nando08

    Finally, now let’s get 4 more wins. We are much more prepared for “battle” this time so to speak and in a good position to beat the celtics. Homecourt, best coach, player, and a stronger supporting cast this time.
    .
    .
    Anna, sasha was the most “thoughtless” with that mistake but the LVP in game 6 was Pau Gasol. He has fallen apart the last few games and was flat out abused tonight. Hopefully he can recover and play like the most talented big man in the game that he is come thursday….

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      I was about to put Pau in that category, but Sasha was the dumbest in the shortest amount of time. That moment could have really killed it for the Lakers.

      The Suns defense, by admission from Alvin Gentry, has largely been to stop Pau and it’s worked. Pau doesn’t seem to be as savvy as Kobe is to get around or run over what the defense is or isn’t allowing him to do. He needs to figure that out before Boston because if he can’t work through the SUNS’ defense, he’ll meet hell against the Celtics.

      Furthermore, Pau’s defense, or lack thereof, really worries me. It isn’t just Steve Nash getting past him. It was Barbosa, Dragic, not to mention Stoudemire who dunked on him more times than Pau should have allowed from one player. The Suns were taking turns getting past him for easy layups and dunks. It was really annoying and I hope he remedies that before Game 1.

  • http://myspace.com/taeyongpark Day

    Nah, screw that. Sasha is the man. I’m not gonna lie, there was a small ( more than small actually.. ) part of me that wanted him to pop that little piss ant in the jaw and he did.

    :)

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Haha! Did you love Dragic’s impression of Paul Pierce? Of course there was no wheelchair involved, but lying on the ground covering his eye and pretending to writhe in pain was a nice touch. =)

      • http://myspace.com/taeyongpark Day

        Yeah, that was pretty funny. He gets hit in the jaw and goes to the ground covering his face. It reminded me of an old loony toons episode with a character covering his face and looking out every so often to see if the coast is clear.

      • 242LakerFan

        It comes from watching years of World Cup Football (sorry, soccer) They grow up understanding that refs can be swayed by the most ridiculous overacting. In fact, the more ridiculous it is, the more gullible they seem.

  • YOUR WARLOCK

    The altercation between Sasha and Goran did not merit a flagrant of any kind… Goran intentionally initiated the contact that Sasha simply reacted to by raising his arms in defense… No elbow was thrown… Goran went down like a fake sack of potatoes and the refs simply took advantage of this to enhance their scripted intention for a Phoenix comeback… SunSequently, how many times did Gasol visibly get hacked with no call… again the officials simply taking advantage of Gasol’s soft reputation to not make the call… At best, the Goran/Sasha incident should have been a double technical, not two free throws and possession of the ball, which The Lakers originally had… This series was officially tainted, very upsetting to watch refs become seriously involved with the outcomes of NBA games.

    • goldentoe3

      Amen!! That was perfectly said!!! I hope the league office watches the tape and sees the smirk on Dragic’s face as things got sorted out. I love how Dragic said he didn’t say anything when all the cameras on him said otherwise. Guess it doesn’t matter because The Machine will be getting another ring while “the kid on the other team” goes home. As for the officials what do you expect with Scott Foster as the lead. Any game the Lakers can win with that jerk on the floor is a big accomplishment.

  • si pepe

    thats what im talking about. Lakers in 6! Congratulations everyone…thanks Anna! Lets go..

  • edsel

    the finals is all about hunger..

    bet the lakers should not eat two days prior to the game… then they would be hungrier than the celdicks. …lol

    but truth be told i think the lakers will win in 6. can’t bet against the kobe

  • http://www.twitter.com/TLN24 Marwan Marzina

    The road isn’t over. Many of you are guaranteeing a win and as much as I’d love to do so, you really can’t tell. If you can, can you also tell me where LeBron is ending up?
    What I mean to say is, a lot of stuff happens when a team is counted out because of their struggles in the season. They counted the Celtics out the entire Playoffs, but here they are, in the Finals.
    They counted out the Lakers all of last year and they got the championship. This year, just cheer the Lakers on instead of guaranteeing a win.
    If you ask me, I’d rather have the media against us, cause that way if we win, we can say ‘up yours’ and the team that the media follows tends to relax and think its gonna happen to them because some ‘experts’ said so.
    The Lakers need to work harder for it because… well because its the Celtics…

    • nando08

      the media is always against us, no need to worry there. Have some faith Marwan! I can honestly say in 08 i thought were at a disadvantage with injuries, lack of homecourt, and just the dominance the c’s played that entire season. We’re much stronger now (at least mentally). It’s the finals, i don’t think the lakers will relax one bit anymore.

      • http://www.twitter.com/TLN24 Marwan Marzina

        Faith is something I’m full of, I never go against my team!

  • ESPN is gonna keep bring up 08 but this is 2010

    And paul pierce doesnt play well against strong defenders remember the cleveland series lebron gave him fits.Artest will do the same and celtics do not have posey anymore or eddie house

    • Wilt

      Very good point about paul pierce ron will shut him down all we need to do is shut down ray allen and when rondo drives the lane collapse on him.

  • why?

    Sometimes I dream That he is Meee….Like Kobe!!

  • VENGEANCE

    It’s gonna be a LONG wait until Thursday. I am PUMPED for the series.

    1 REVENGE SERIES DOWN, 1 TO GO! LETS GO LAKESHOW

  • Betto

    How come there’s no mention on when Kobe does a double pump, shoots and scores! Then he taps Alvin Gentry in the butt and looked like he was giggling like a school girl after.. lol Kinda like that espn tittle.

    Kobe And The Drive For Five.

    Now Steve Nash knows not to guarantee anything that’s not under his control, bet he didn’t think Ron Ron would have an encore to his game winning shot or that Kobe would get off to another 30+ points game. Kobe has the all-time lead for 30-point playoff road games when his team has the chance to clinch. Another mark of greatness, Kobe has 8, Elgin Baylor has 6 and MJ has 5, when I read that, it was news to me and smiled. xD
    Also liked this quote..
    Bryant will be in his seventh NBA finals in search of his fifth championship — five more than regular season MVP LeBron James, who can only sit and watch.

  • Dave

    LeBron will watch the finals from his MVP couch. When he gets up to grab a snack, dance like an idiot, or throw chalk in the air, I’m darn glad we can’t see him.

  • 242LakerFan

    Nice work, Anna. I think I’m starting to sound redundant saying that, so from now on, just a quick NWA and move along.
    The only thing I disagree with you on here is Sasha. His mistake wasn’t popping Drock0itch in the jaw. His mistake was not practising before the game with Fish and learning how to do it so that when he gets back up he’s like a scared little Scola-puppy.
    He didn’t hit him hard enough.
    I think Scola still flinches if you walk up to him and say “Derek Fisher!”

    • http://myspace.com/taeyongpark Day

      Agree rotfl

  • gugy

    Bring the Celts guys.
    Can’t wait.

    Suns and Celts in the same season…. What a revenge that will be.

    Bring it on!

  • lakerfan_4ever

    I’ve been waiting for this moment since last year.We were there but somehow the Celts found a excuse to not be present,now the time has arrived…This time will be different,we didn’t have Bynum and that’s why their frontcourt had their way with Gasol and Odom…Ariza was hurt and we couldn’t stop Pierce…plus Posey’s defense and House shots were the difference in that Finals.This time we have Bynum(even when he is not completely healthy he will be a factor)Artest will shut down Pierce…Last 2 regular seasons,we won 3 out of 4 meeting(and the one we lost was ’cause Kobe didn’t play) and that seems like a good sign for our team….I would love to sweep them and embarrass the hell out of them but it will be a tough series,Lakers in 6!!!….payback it’s a bi*ch!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejahjah Josh Herrington

    Like Marwan said earlier, let’s just cheer on these Lakers and stop predicting so much. I honestly do no care when they win, as long as they DO! When analysts predict they to to mess up BAD and we aren’t the best analysts because we are biased Laker fans. So, you can be happy hate on the C’s and what-not but let’s just take this series game-by-game because WHEN we win this series we will al know we had the confidence that they WOULD win instead of having to be wrong about what game it ends in. Whatever. Do what you wish, just a word of advice.

  • kobez

    I think farmar proved that he is the the future pg leading this team. he hit some tough shots and shannon has been struggling. i say trade shannon or sign him for less money.

    agree or disagree guys?

  • Pau Gasoline

    It really bothers me when Laker fans put any kind of blame on Pau Gasol. Yes his defense may lack at times but what more can u ask for when he averages a double double. How can people say he is soft when u never hear he is injured and he always plays big minutes, because of Gasol the Lakers are heading to their third straight finals appearance. Nuff said!!
    True Lakers fans will NEVER have anything bad to say about Gasol
    http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/art_garcia/05/21/lakers.gasol/index.html

    • Lakerman1

      I don’t think anyone wants to diss Pau but if you watched the game he was being totally owned by Amare and other Phoenix Sun’s players. Half the time he was picking himself up off the floor or being knocked off balance. We just don’t want to see that type of performance against Boston that’s all. Pau is going to have to be tough because he has not seen anything yet until they play the dogs from beantown which is where Ron will show his true worth because Paul P will definitely get man handled. Also anyone with any sense knows Gasol is a key part in winning it all. He and Lamar who also did not have a good game but i feel both will step it up for this last round.

  • avcpl

    the problem with our bench is it’s made up of all offensive minded guys. jordan, shasha, shannon, all want to come in and hit these big shots (and luke just wants to pass it to one of them).

    • nando08

      what’s your point buddy? that’s how most bench players play but its the energy and hustle that contribute to steals and thus defense. I guess u could say that their offense fuels their defense. LO, drew, farmar, brown, and hopefully sasha (put him on allen phil) will get it done. Im pretty sure theyre better than baby, tony allen, and sheed. Can’t wait for thursday…

  • LAKESHOW420

    Not happy until Kobe is holding the NBA finals MVP trophy in one hand and the Larry O’brien trophy in the other.

  • Zeki Kayiran

    As the Lakers always had to do, they played 5 against mostly 8, and came through in all three series. David Stern can fine Drew and Phil, but that does not change the reality that he has a ton of Laker hating zebras in his stable. I dont expect anything different in the Celtic series, but this team is strong enough to handle it.

    Will someone please tell Lamar to dunk the ball when he is under the basket instead of showing it and getting blocked (of course many fouls have not been called, but why give the Laker hating zebras the opportunity).

    Special thanks to Fish, as he comes through whenever this team needs him.

    I had not been a fan of Ron-Ron, but he too came through big time. Keep it up big guy.

    And how about Drew? On one leg, he has played great in most of the games, even though the Laker hating zebras do their best and mess with him.

    Nothing can come close to describing the Mamba. He is an unbelievable warrior. He has that look, that says he will bring No.16 to LA.

    ZKNPC

  • thisisweaksauce

    When is LD2K putting up the video previewing the Finals? I am so down.

  • UWEEE

    time to eat green……..