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Lakers vs. Suns

3/1/09

A few years ago the match up between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns was a must see game with a playoff atmosphere. The atmosphere is still somewhat the same as both teams still love to compete against one another, but the Lakers have finally gotten the best of the Suns.

The Suns core may still be intact with Steve Nash running the point, Amare Stoudemire in the paint and Leandro Barbosa off the bench, but the team around them is completely different.

Ever since the Suns parted ways with coach Mike D’Antoni Phoenix’s high powered run and gun offense has never been the same. The goal back then was to score in only seven seconds of the shot clock and basically exhaust the other team. Not a bad strategy, but teams like the San Antonio Spurs always seemed to get the best of them by slowing down the pace and forcing the Suns to play defense which they were incapable of doing.

Although the Suns could never get past the Spurs in the playoffs they were always able get knock out Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. It wasn’t that the Lakers weren’t a good team, they were just young, inexperienced and besides Kobe they were just a bunch of role players.

Now, times have changed. As the Suns just kept getting older, the Lakers really started to come on strong as Kobe became a solid MVP caliber leader and the players around him did nothing, but improve game after game.

Last season the Lakers decided to get one more piece to the puzzle by adding Pau Gasol and the Suns countered by getting Shaq. Gasol turned out to be one of the best trades in franchise history for the Lakers and Shaq just couldn’t keep up with the seven second offense.

This season was a little different though as Shaq has been somewhat rejuvenated, but the Lakers just got even better with the addition of a healthy Andrew Bynum. Now the Lakers have a comfortable eight game lead in the Western conference as the Suns struggle to stay in the playoff hunt.

Shaq and Kobe may have been co-MVPs in the All Star game in Phoenix, but their teams are going in completely different directions.

As of right now the Suns are a mess. Steve Nash is injured with a bad ankle, Stoudemire might be out for the season after surgery and they still can’t play defense worth a lick. The offense may have gotten back to the run and gun style, but the defensive problem still remains the same.

The Lakers on the other hand are playing like they are the defending champs as they look close to being virtually unbeatable even without Andrew Bynum. Kobe can’t be stopped, the have the best bench in the league and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have really stepped up their game in Bynum’s absence.

If the Lakers keep playing this way I don’t see anyone in the East or West that can stop them. The Suns were embarrassed when they played them earlier in the week and it might just get worse the second time around. The only way the Suns can pull off the upset is if Kobe, Pau and Odom aren’t on the floor.


 

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