Don’t they know this is the best team in NBA history, with the best lineup of 2009-2010, with celebrities at courtside, with the heir to Michael Jordan, with unstoppable length and size and will and determination and championship experience? Don’t they know they got smashed in Game 1, gave Game 2 their best shot and got smashed in the fourth quarter, and allowed the Lakers to do whatever they wanted on offense? Don’t they know their an appetizer for a main course of Boston?
Nobody told these Phoenix Suns.
Nobody told them they’re not supposed to be here. That they’re not supposed to be able to slow down the mighty Lakers with a simple zone, hard work and communication. That they’re supposed to be intimidated by Phil Jackson’s smirk, Kobe’s jutting jaw after a three-pointer, and Pau Gasol’s nostrils.
The Suns absolutely did not get that memo, and as a result, they head back to Los Angeles with the Western Conference Finals up for grabs and momentum definitely giving them wings.
After Game 1, which I attended, I just wanted to see the Suns compete.
After Game 2, I was a bit cheered, but 0-2 is 0-2, and the Suns still hadn’t stopped the Lakers when the Lakers didn’t want to be stopped. After Game 3, I was relieved but skeptical…It’s natural for a team with a big series lead to ease the throttle a little bit before waking up and stepping on the enemy’s neck. But after Game 4…After Game 4, it became clear that, while the Lakers maintain home court advantage, they’re no lock.
Most of the time, lack of championship or playoff experience is a detriment.
The spotlight can shrink you, the cheers become nails on a chalkboard, and the stakes a noose that tightens around your neck. But sometimes…sometimes the lack of championship experience can be an asset in that you just don’t know you’re supposed to be intimidated. You don’t lose confidence, you play like you have nothing to lose,
Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa and Amar’e Stoudemire, they’ve been here. They know what it’s like. But the rest of the squad? Babes in the woods. And they’re not afraid of bears. Look at Robin Lopez bringing the nasty to fourteen-year veteran Derek Fisher. Look at Lou Amundson fight Pau Gasol for a rebound. Look at Jared Dudley sticking threes in Kobe Bryant’s face.
Look at Channing Frye arriving a bit late for the series, but kicking down the door once he got there. Look at Goran Dragic, the miraculous Goran Dragic, going behind the back, spinning around, faking in the paint like Hakeem, and laying it in.
Nobody told these guys you just don’t do that to the defending champs, the league’s crown jewel, the Lakers.
Can the Suns beat the Lakers in Los Angeles? You bet. If an 0-2 hole, nationwide dismissal, and Boston-LA anticipation doesn’t faze them, what can Jack Nicholson do? Turns out the Lakers put their gold-plated, diamond-encrusted jock straps on one leg at a time, just like the Suns put on their regular ones. The Suns have clearly learned this, and this might turn out to be a much longer series than anyone thought after Game 1.
It’s not over. The Suns are still underdogs. The rest of the world still wants to see Boston and LA in the Finals. Everyone wants to see Kobe rise up and claim his crown as the Best Thing Since Sliced Air. No one thinks the Suns can take it away from LA. But I’ll make you a deal:
If you don’t tell the Suns all these things, I won’t either.