How the Phoenix Suns Created a Monster
You killed the elephant in the room. The gorilla on your back. The skeleton in your closet.
Whatever it was, you finally vanquished your arch nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs.
And you did it with gusto.
When Steve Nash went down with a gashed eye late in Game 4, the demons of a tortured past came creeping out of the court, threatening to pull them into the abyss alongside the broken face of Joe Johnson, the fractured knee of Amare Stoudemire, the bleeding nose of Steve Nash, the hip of Robert Horry, and the 3-pointer of Tim Duncan.
The curse of the Spurs had reared its ugly head again, and the excuses for becoming the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 lead engulfed the franchise like a billow of smoke from hell.
But this time was different. The Suns out Spurred the Spurs, outrebounding, outdefending, and outgrittying their longtime rival.
This time, Steve Nash stared them down with his one good eye and launched shot after shot that would find the bottom of the net.
The ghosts had been exorcised.
So Congratulations, Phoenix. You just reached the high point of your season and, really, the high point of your decade.
Now it's time to face reality. It's time to face the monster that you created. The new and improved Los Angeles Lakers.
A lot has changed since the last time you played these guys.
In 2006, you became only the eighth team to recover from a 3-1 deficit. The euphoria that Los Angeles felt after Kobe's two buzzer-beaters in Game 4 dissolved into disorientation as the Suns put on a humiliating clinic to close out the series.
In 2007 you smacked us around, dismissing us both on and off the court.
That beatdown sent the franchise into a tailspin. Kobe was so frustrated he went on tour to plead for trades. Dr. Buss openly shopped him. October came and for the first time in my life I wasn't excited for the start of a new season.
The Lakers fans, in Staples Center, boo'd Kobe on opening night.
We know the story from there. The acquisition of Pau Gasol remanufactured the franchise into a championship contender overnight.
I don't know if Lakers brass would have found a way to acquire Pau if Kobe hadn't been openly threatening them, but I do know that the Phoenix Suns set off a chain of downward spiraling events that thrust the franchise into the lowest of lows before it climbed back to the top.
Thank you, Suns. We owe our loaded roster to you. And we will proceed to dismantle you with it.
More than that, the Lakers have been privately hoping for a chance to brush the Suns of their shoulder.
"I'm like an elephant. I don't forget much," said Odom with a smile when asked about possible payback against the Suns.
"I remember when we had a 3-1 series lead against Phoenix," Luke Walton said. "We're better closers now."
This isn't your Shawn Marion's Lakers anymore. It's no longer Kobe draped with the pupu platter of Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and Brian Cook.
The Suns are a reminder of how bad the Lakers were. A reminder of when Kobe saw his mortality fading away in obscurity, and needed to escape.
The Suns have themselves to thank for that beatdown last night. They created that beast. They vindicated themselves against the Spurs only to run into another squad seeking vengeance against a past nemesis.
Kobe was particularly icy last night. Every time the Suns brought the deficit to single digits, there he was to ram it back down their throats. He didn't want to wait until the fourth quarter. Kobe did his closing early and often.
He explained his scoring burst by saying, "part of it was to show them that we're a different team than the one that they've faced."
The Suns used to bully L.A. around, and in doing so they pushed them into the a dark corner saturated in radioactive despair. A monster emerged.
Yes, things have changed.
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