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Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

(2) PHOENIX SUNS

With forward Shawn Marion banging inside, point guard Steve Nash controlling the game outside, shooting guard Leandro Barbosa hitting from downtown, and Boris Diaw throwing in shot after shot from the paint, it’s tough to figure out how to defend against the Suns.

With Phoenix you get a total team effort.

Nash was top ranked in the league in foul shooting percentage (.921) and assists per game (10.5). His 44% accuracy from the 3-point area gives him a great option when his uncanny ability to get the ball to the open man can’t be exploited.

Marion led the team in rebounds per game (11.8) and points per game (21.8). His ability to grab the ball off the boards at both ends of the court, to block and to steal makes him a full defensive machine. But don’t underestimate his shooting; his .525 accuracy was tenth best in the NBA.

The Suns are widely respected for their impressive offense, but teams also have to be wary of their defense. Phoenix can go all the way if they do so.

(7) LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom are the nucleus of an improved Lakers team. Phil Jackson has done a good job of bringing the team along this season. No, they are certainly not the dominant Lakers of the past, but they’ve become a respectable unit and a full-throttle scoring machine.

This season, Bryant led the league in points per game, total points, field goal attempts, and field goals made. He was also ranked in the top 15 or better in 5 other offensive categories, plus was ninth in steals and 8th in turnovers. He’s played a lot of minutes (ranked 5th), and that may take its toll in the playoffs.

Inside, Odom has provided defense and scoring. He was ranked 12th in rebounds per game (9.2) and in defensive rebounds per contest (7.0). His 48% shooting percentage from the field was a team best.

Although he may never become the player everyone thought he would be, Kwame Brown has shown improvement this year; he needs to stay out of foul trouble.

If they can score from the post, set up the play, and work the boards defensively, the Lakers will win some games. Exactly how many is tough to say. Although improved, they are very inconsistent night to night. That tendency could prove to be their undoing.

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Phoenix wins series 4-1

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