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Can The Lakers Set The Suns?

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In the last 23 years, NBA playoff seven seeds have won four and lost 42 series of their first-round playoff series.

Not good news for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who tip off against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday (noon on ABC). Still there is some hope -- last year in the playoffs against these Suns the Lakers took a 3-1 series lead (but eventually lost in seven games); and even during the recent Lakers slide some of their few good efforts have been against Phoenix.

Most pundits don’t think it will be all that close -- the Suns and their run-and-gun style are heavy favorites -- but the Lakers can make this a thrilling series. All they need to do something they haven’t done much of lately -- play good defense. Against the Suns that means being very disciplined (something else that has not been a Laker strength of late).

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We say discipline is key because to defend the Suns means ignoring your basketball instincts. For example, players in the flow of the game want to run, like to play fast, love to push the tempo -- do that against the Suns and you play right into their strength. Another example — when Steve Nash drives into the lane, the instinct is for two or three defenders to collapse and try to help stop him -- do that and you pay with a crisp pass and a three point shot. Against the Suns the Lakers must slow the tempo, and they must stay home defensively.