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What the Lakers Need to Win It All

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The Phoenix Suns showed some life in their 118-109 victory over the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Rather than taking a cue from the Orlando Magic and do their best impression of a lifeless corpse, the Suns decided to show some heart and dignity and actually competed against the Lakers on their home court.

After having his manhood question in the Phoenix media, Amare Stoudemire came up big for the Suns scoring 42 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Even the seven-footer Robin Lopez got in on the action with 20 points in 31 minutes of play. Their aggressive play got the Lakers in foul troubles with Andrew Bynum scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds while committing four fouls in only eight minutes of play. Lamar Odom fouled out of the game in 35 minutes with only 10 points and six rebounds to his name.

But what really put the Suns over the top was their zone defense they deployed in the second quarter in which they dared the Lakers to beat them from the outside. Rather than trying to beat the zone from inside to outside, the Lakers were content to hoist threes as if they were in the ABA making nine of their outrageous 32 attempts from behind the arc. Phoenix only attempted 20 while making only five.

Of course everyone in Lakerland will their finger on the panic button. Sit down Bynum! Play Mbenga! What’s wrong with Odom! Kobe’s a ball hog! The Celtics are tromping the Magic - we need to duplicate that!

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The Lakers need for this series to be tough. While the Suns won’t come anywhere near replicating the defense the Celtics play, the Lakers need to work on their own defense which has yet to show up in this series having given up 107, 112 and 118 points in this series. If we think back to the 2008 Finals, the Celtics played all the defense while the Lakers just ran around the court trying to figure out what was going on. The Lakers need to start showing they can shut down the Suns just to give any hint of confidence to fans that they can compete with the Celtics in the Finals.

It may be hackneyed, but it’s true: Defense wins championships. If the Lakers don’t start showing any sort of defensive intensity it will be another June gloom for Lakers’ fans.

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