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Suns-Lakers Preview and Open Thread

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1. Lakers (57-25) vs. 3. Suns (54-28)

Game 1 Tips at 9 EST on TNT

Billed as David vs. Goliath, both in terms of size and talent, I think this series is going to surprise a lot of people. First of all, with the return of Robin Lopez, the Suns have plenty of size with which to matchup to the Lakers' twin towers. Second, they win the point guard match-up rather handily.

The Suns have amped up an already lights-out performance in the playoffs, and have done so against the Spurs and Trailblazers, which ranked 9th and 13th in the league in defensive efficiency. Jason Richardson has been the difference maker, hitting a lights out 52% from beyond the arc. He is averaging 22 points and six rebounds per game.

Will he repeat that performance against the Lakers? No. It would be nearly mathematically impossible for him to do so, and he'll face the toughest defense yet. The Lakers were, at one point, the league's best defensive team. They waned at the end of the season, and haven't really picked it up in the playoffs, but remain the toughest team the Suns have faced at that end.

And it isn't as though the Lakers have waltzed through the playoffs. They destroyed a Utah team that had been playing some of their best basketball up until injuries to key role players. Still, there are a lot of question marks in this series, which may wind up being the most interesting of the playoffs.

Player to watch: Kobe Bryant. Not that everyone won't be watching him, but he recently had fluid drained from his knee. We saw in the Cavs-Celtics series what a nagging injury to a team's best player can do to a team's chances. If Kobe is at 85%, the Lakers are dogs in this series.

Prediction: Suns in 7. This is about a coin flip, but I have an inkling that Utah was dead in the water, and that Kobe's injury is going to be enough of a factor. Or, maybe, it's just wishful thinking. I mean, is anyone asking for a Lakers-Celtics or Lakers-Magic rematch, other than David Stern?