Well, this isn't supposed to be how the story goes, is it?
The Lakers defeated the potentially playoff-bound Phoenix Suns 115-99, in an unlikely rout that kept the contest a double-digit game from the second quarter onwards. The Suns had destroyed their division rivals for most of the season, defeating them soundly in each contest by escalating point totals in their previous three matchups. It was a strangely lopsided affair in their fourth game, as the Lakers couldn't miss from the field and the Suns couldn't seem to stop them.
To add to the inexplicable happenings of the night, Chris Kaman led the way for the Lakers, looking like a prime Shaquille O'Neal playing a trio of high school big men. The center played 32 minutes and went 13 for 19 from the floor, hitting shots from every single spot on the paint in the face of a bunch of hapless Suns defenders that looked absolutely powerless to stop him. It's not so much that Kaman had 28 points on the night--it's how incredibly easy it looked for him to get them. To add to his monster scoring game, he also racked up a monstrous 17 boards and 6 assists. Though some could argue otherwise, it may have been the finest game of Kaman's 11 year career. Jodie Meeks (22 points), Kendall Marshall (13 points, 11 assists), Ryan Kelly (17 points and an epic almost-slam dunk) and Kent Bazemore (12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) also chipped in contributions to the drubbing.
However, even with such a fantastic surprise performance from Kaman, the biggest shock of the game was just how lifeless the Suns looked. Phoenix is in a dog fight for the 7-8 seeds in the Western Conference, now tied with Dallas and just a 1/2 game ahead of the ninth place Memphis Grizzlies. With about eight games left to play, the Suns needed to win this game to secure their postseason spot, but couldn't have done less to help themselves out.
PHX allowed 53% shooting to the Lakers, but more importantly only shot a sub-par 38% against a horrid LA defense. The Suns missed bunnies in the lane and made careless turnovers. They failed to close out on shooters, get back on fast breaks and didn't disrupt passing lanes which led to 29 assists. It was an extremely poor effort from the Suns who knew exactly how to beat the Lakers and how to make it look really easy.
With less than ten games left in the regular season, opposing teams must realize this very simple calculus: if you come to play, you will beat the Los Angeles Lakers. It's that simple. If you come with effort and energy, everything else will fall into place. There isn't a team in the league that's less talented than the Lakers. There isn't an offense that can't put up 100 points on them, as illustrated by the putrid Milwaukee scoring attack piling on 13 points more than their season average.
Look at the Portland game two weeks ago. Oklahoma City after that. The New York Knicks last week. Those teams showed up to the arena with less energy and less determination than this Lakers squad that always comes to play. And they all lost.
This Lakers team is really, really horrible, talent-wise. But they work extremely hard and haven't quit on the season despite it being lost for months. The Phoenix Suns did not return that effort in kind and suffered a devastating blow in what should have been an easy win.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino