(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

It tells you a lot about both teams that although the Suns were not only without a key player but also without their A game that the Lakers still had to sweat out a hectic fourth period stretch to stagger away with the victory.

What it tells you about the Suns is that they very much belong in the middle of the wild scrum for playoff seeding in the top-loaded Western Conference, and what it tells you about the Lakers is that they have fallen from Super Power status into, if not the middle, at least into that scrum.

I realize there is one school of thought that the Lakers are just of bored with the regular season, and will play up to their pedigree come playoff time. But I am not enrolled in this school. The other teams in the West are just too good, and the Lakers are just not that GREAT.

Translation: They may very well win the West, but it will be a fight, not a coronation.

To give you an idea just how top-loaded the West is, by the way, the eighth seed in the East as of Thursday was at .508, the eighth in the West at .580.

Getting back to the scrum motif, this one had quite a few, with the teams taking turns playing raggedly. But what it boiled down to was that for the second time on this home stand one period doomed the Suns. Against Utah it was a 21-44 fourth. Against the Lakers it was 5 for 23 shooting in the second.

Things got wild in fourth period, which included the ejection of Coach Alvin, who had to be restrained after a non flagrant foul call on Pau Gasol. The normally loquacious coach flatly refused to discuss the incident, saying it would be up to the league to review it.

The good for the Suns is that while they didn’t shoot nearly as well as they usually do, they did play some pretty decent “D”, switching effectively between zone and man to man and keeping Kobe from being Kobe. The bad news is that they got caught between switches a few times in the third period when the Lakers built a 15-point lead.

Bryant took only 16 shots, which is practically a sabbatical for him. And while he had 10 rebounds and 8 assists, he also had 7 turnovers, and the Suns had more than a little to do with that. Not everything maybe, but more than a little.

On the other side, Amare had the big numbers (29 points, 16 boards), but the night belonged to Louis Amundson, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and a steal, and played with enough energy to power both the Suns and the crowd. (Granted, he didn’t get the fans quite as pumped as the officials managed to, but bear in mind this is Conspiracy City).

Stoudemire had 17 of his points and 8 of his rebounds in the first period, but sat half of the second, and it seemed at times in the second half as though the Suns underwent to him at times in the second half.

Although he still seems to be bothered some by various aches and pains (and by the way you’ll never hear about them from him) Steve Nash still managed 8 assists and 14 points.

On another encouraging note, incidentally, the Suns actually more than held their own on the boards against the long and strong Laker front line, finishing with a 43-40 edge overall. They also had a 14-12 edge at the offensive end, and the second chance points were about even.

The bottom line: Disappointing loss, but hardly discouraging.

  • Chris Allen

    I definitely agree with your summation statement. A loss to the Lakers at home is certainly discouraging but can you imagine what could happen with the Suns at full strength – probably a different outcome. Great job controlling Kobe. The big bad Lakers are NOT invincible any more. Can’t wait for redemption in the playoffs. GO SUNS!

    CJA Chatham, ON

  • JOHN SERPE

    Bloody, battered, but still standing, the Suns lost the battle but showed they have enough heart to make a war interesting with any team in the league. Amundson was tough, Nash was hurting, Frye and Barbosa were sitting and Amare played like a superstar in my book. Personally, I don’t think we have enough overall toughness ( Nash and Hill can’t play an entire game anymore) to be considered in title talk. However, if we do make the playoffs, even an 8 seed, Suns will make any team, including the Lakers work to eliminate them. Can we as fans really ask this group for more than that? One parting comment on this loss. Had our Suns played as dirty as LA, how many suspensions would it have cost us. I will say it again, NBA, home of the worst officiating in any sport, period.

  • Jason

    summarized: “suns lost.”

  • weslo

    Well Joe I am sorry to say but I dissagree with your saying that the Lakers are only a midddle of the pack team. First thing is they are a very deap team and they have three guys down low that can get double doubles along with a takeover player in Kobe and many more pieces. Yes they have lost their last few, BUT just like those Spurs teams did in their championship years they always started playing their best right before the playoffs and in the playoffs. this Lakers team with the hall of fame coach Phil Jackson will kick it into high gear come the playoffs and most likley dominate. the one team I can see maybe taking them six or seven games is the Mavs because they have depth and maybe enough pieces down low to keep Pau, Bynum and Odom under control. Yes I didn’t say the Nuggets but that’s because I don’t know they have enough down low to handle L.A along with Kobe but there could be a very slight possibility. Bottom line is there is seven games in a playoff series and reality of any other teams in the west beating L.A in seven games when they will most likely be playing thier best is SLIM TO NONE!!! This L.A team will be pleased to win another championship. I am pretty sure even with probably a tough battle with the Dallas Mavs in the west conf. finals, will get there and face Cleveland by far the most dominant team in the east and there they will meet a real match being Clevland. So L.A still owns the West and will be there for a while we just have to face it. PHX does not have enough to beat them this year and few do so we just need to try to get to that point where we can be a real challenger to them.

  • Andy Buckland

    The Lakers can thank the refs for this one. If they’d actually been paying attention rather than letting Bynum travel, Kobe double dribble, Pau Gasol foul flagrantly, and calling jump balls when we’d clearly won possesion, among many more niggles that people who are paid that kind of money shouldn’t really be missing, then we’d have taken it right too the defending “champs” and come out with the win. Still, why we kept Amare out of the 2nd quarter after he exploded in the 1st is just beyond me…

  • flyeaglefly

    while we lost ,we played better defense but our shooting let us down.LB coming back will help in PO time. Im glad to see Big Al Show some FIRE.This helps the team Go Suns

  • NBA Fan

    Yes, the Suns gave the defending champions fits and maybe the Suns deserve a playoff spot. First of all however, a team can deserve anything they want but in the end they have to earn it. Who cares if the Suns deserve a playoff spot? It’s all about earning that spot based on their play on the court. Secondly, haven’t we been here before? Fans across the nation said the Lakers weren’t good enough last year and that they’re not good enough this year with the loaded tough West. Yet the Lakers are the defending champions and have a very good shot at winning again this year. Every year is tough in the NBA. There is no cakewalk for a team in any year and there is no “coronation” thats 100% guaranteed. If there were then the Cavaliers should’ve won last year because everyone thought they were the best team. Are the Lakers not playing to their potential? That’s obvious. But lets wait until the regular season ends and analyze how the Cavs, Lakers, Magic, or any contender is playing by then and see if they’re “GREAT” or not.

  • JOHN SERPE

    I actually got to go down to the stadium in the win over the Hornets. Sat way up with the grandkids, and the real fans, alot of good loud yelling. Suns looked good against a declining Hornets team that appeared tired. How can we not give Amare ( I’m far from his biggest fan) the max contract. The guy is in superstar territory on a nightly basis. You could hear Grant Hills head actually hit the court on a scary play, it was lucky he got up from that one. Hoped to see Barbosa back, he could so be the ringer. Still see us in # 7 seed. Getting out of the first round will be draining. Are we tough enough, or young enough to cause some trouble?

  • Kyle Branche

    Joe,

    In my opinion, the loss is Gentry’s fault. It was the Suns game to win. They had the momentum and pace where they wanted it early, then Alvin sits both Amare and Nash down from the last 2 minutes of Q1 to 4 minutes left in Q2. An entire 10-minute stretch, against LA? They should have gone in the locker room and took a nap! All while watching the Lakers turn the tide completely around in Q2, and Gentry does nothing except let it happen while the bench wasn’t doing so good out there on point scoring. That type of move looks not only generously giving, but deliberate and conspired as well, while the camera points to Nash and Amare on the bench with eyes that were chomping at the bit to get in there earlier and stop the bleeding so they wouldn’t have an uphill battle in the second half. He must have brought them in with 4 minutes left in Q2 for nothing more than his own personal ass coverage. Phoenix should have won this game, as everything was in their favor, well, almost everything . . .

  • JOHN SERPE

    Can we save up some of the points the Suns scored against the Timberwolves and use them in our next two upcoming important games? Suns chemistry looked very good against a should beat opponent. Amare played to the competition and still looked good. Barbosa can still get up the court and should be back to full speed by the playoffs, he could be the spoiler. The bench is huge, if we do anything in the playoffs it will be the bench that gets us there. How many times have you seen a team with so many players busting loose in a season? Amare going up to superstar, Goran becoming a Nash clone, Lopez playing like the center we fans have always wanted, JRich finally comfortable, Frye a three maniac, Dudley showing he’s a really good player. Suns could spoil the playoffs for alot of teams.