Only a couple of weeks ago, Lakers Nation let out a collective sigh of relief after the Lakers triumphed from their hard fought battle with the youthful but vigorous Thunder. The Lakers were forced to flip their “on” switch much earlier than anticipated. If you recall, last year the Lakers waited until Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to finally play up to the standards that all Lakers fans rigorously demand from them. After outlasting the feisty youngsters from Oklahoma City, Ron Artest quipped, “It’s great for us to get through it and understand that we’re not the best thing since sliced bread. We actually have to work.” Since then, the Lakers promptly dispatched the undersized and injury-riddled Jazz, sweeping Utah with relative ease. The Jazz provided so little resistance that headlines centered on the fans from the Great Salt Lake and their despicable behavior, so vile that even the most obsessive Justin Bieber followers would be appalled at the lack of civility.
The first two series offered valuable lessons for the Lakers moving forward. The Thunder forced the Lakers to shake off their complacency and play with purpose and maximum effort. Against the Jazz, the Lakers realized the importance of exploiting their size advantage by pounding the ball inside to Pau Gasol, who was 3 points shy of matching his playoff career high of 36 points in their last game. With everything the Lakers took from their playoff experience thus far, they’re going to need to put forth their best effort if they hope to succeed against the Suns.
Phoenix has been absolutely torching their opposition, winning 22 out of their last 26 games and head into Los Angeles with as much momentum and confidence as their division rivals. While it remains to be seen which side will prevail, one thing is certain: The Lakers will not be lacking motivation, not after what happened the last two times these teams collided in the postseason.