The beauty of the NBA postseason is in the seven game format, because over that length of time the best team usually emerges, as was the case in the Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
But the regular season is not the same as the playoffs, and many analysts and observers have been quick to point out the Suns' improved play on defense, and their dismantling of the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley has said he wouldn't be surprised if Phoenix upsets Los Angeles, and on this very website numerous scenarios have been posted which detail exactly how the Suns will defeat the Lakers.
Most of these accounts were very elaborate, and they summed up what Phoenix needed to do in order to be successful, but they failed to openly state the obvious facts of the matter.
The Lakers will defeat the Suns simply because they are a better team, and it doesn't really matter what Phoenix does on either end of the court, because Los Angeles can do it better.
The only player on the Suns' roster who holds an advantage over a starter on the Lakers' team is Steve Nash, but he is just as likely to get torched on the defensive end as any other Lakers' guard.
Amare Stoudemire is a powerful presence in the paint, and a superior offensive player who hits the boards hard, but Pau Gasol of the Lakers is longer, better, and he plays defense, which is a foreign language to Stoudemire.
A slightly injured Andrew Bynum is still better than anything the Suns have to offer, and Ron Artest has the ability to harass any player who is unlucky enough to be defended by him.
Likewise, Lamar Odom is a difficult match-up for whoever may defend him, and did I fail to mention Kobe Bryant just happens to be the best basketball player left in the NBA postseason?
So, the Lakers have a definite advantage in the paint with Gasol and Bynum, and although Nash is a superior point guard, Bryant is still the best perimeter player in the series.
Maybe Phoenix's defense will come to the rescue as it did against the Spurs, because the Suns did give an inspired and motivated effort against San Antonio, which probably had more to do with the fact Phoenix could never beat them before.
Well, the Lakers are not the Spurs, and although Phoenix has upped their defensive intensity as of late, Los Angeles is a good defensive team the majority of the time, and have been the best defensive team this postseason.
In fact, it's ridiculous to assume a team who was the second worst defensive team during the course of the regular would somehow transform into a defensive juggernaut in the postseason.
And that's what Phoenix will have to be in order to beat the Lakers, because Los Angeles will be the one team the Suns have faced who will be able to impose their will.
Other teams who have faced the Suns have found themselves caught up in Phoenix's uptempo game, and forced to play faster than normal, but the Lakers' scheme will prevent the transition game the Suns love so much.
When the Lakers force the ball to the post, the Suns will have no answer, and when Los Angeles does decide to force the pace, it will be at their own discretion and to their advantage.
Phoenix has an edge over the Lakers in depth, but as the Boston Celtics proved, talent will defeat depth as long as the primary players are healthy and motivated.
The Lakers should be healthier with a week for Bryant, and Bynum to nurse their injuries, and they will definitely be motivated, considering what happened the last time the teams met in the postseason.
Phoenix defeated Los Angeles in 2006 and 2007 and those two years would rank high on Bryant's list of playoff disappointments, and you can bet he will be seeking a little redemption.
The Lakers are the more talented team, possess home court advantage, and just happen to be the NBA's defending champion, none of which guarantees them victory over the Suns.
But for anyone looking to convince me that a Lakers' upset is looming, it will take a lot more tangible evidence than anything that happens to reside on the Phoenix Suns' roster.
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