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Best February NBA Game Since Forever

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Was that a game or what? The Lakers staved off Phoenix’s charges to eventually pull out the 130-124 victory in Shaq’s Suns debut.

The Lakers looked a tad bit lethargic coming off their complete sodomization of the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night. Against most teams being a bit lethargic wouldn’t be a big problem, but this is the Suns we’re talking about here. Each time the Lakers went on a run, Sun’s coach Mike D’Antoni would take a time out and the Suns would cut the lead down to two points.

And there was Shaq. I was one of those people who laughed at the Suns for making this desperation move. I have told many a person that the only way I could see the Shaq move work is if he just stayed under the defensive board while the Suns run a four-man offense. But Shaq did surprise me. He got 15 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes and was as dramatic as ever at the free-throw line going 3-for-an-agonizing-8.

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What was really remarkable was that Shaq seemed quite spry even in the waning moments of the game. Nine of his 15 points were scored in the last seven minutes of the game.

And amazingly despite the amount of hype heaped on this game by ESPN and other media outlets, this game surpassed all the hype.

The victory gives the Lakers the season series against the Suns for the first time since Steve Nash donned a Suns jersey in 2004. Because of the series win, the Lakers now sit atop the Pacific Division and second in the western conference. But before everyone gets crazy, there are still 28 games for the Lakers to play. Also only three losses separate the Lakers today from being second in the conference to being ninth and out of the playoffs. In layman's terms, nothing is guaranteed at this point.

This western conference is really tough. With Dallas giving away size to get Jason Kidd from the Nets in addition to the Shaq deal, the Laker's trade for Pau Gasol and even the Utah Jazz's trade for Kyle Korver (they have only lost three games since acquiring Korver from the 76ers late December) will make the final two months of the season absolutely compelling. It is entirely possible for a 50-win team to be out of the playoffs.

That makes what's going on in the east look simply amateurish. Boston and Detroit sit comfortably atop the conference with the rest of the teams fumbling around. They will have at least one team with a losing record make it into the playoffs. And let's be frank. Is anyone outside of DC excited about the Wizard's playoff hunt?

Back to the Lakers. They next play the Clip show on Saturday followed by a trip up to Seattle on Sunday. The only games that will are concerning now are the two games with the Portland Trail Blazers next week. The Blazers always play the Lakers tough despite the records of both teams.

It is crucial for the Lakers to win just to keep pace with all the other teams. But for now, I'll just savor in this great victory.

AP Photo by Jason Babyak