They didn't show it against Utah or OKC or for large parts of the season, but when they are playing like this with Ron turning down bad shots and hitting good ones, Pau and Lamar destroying in the paint and Kobe looking healthy again and, most importantly, playing together as a team ... the Suns simply have no answer.
They are who we thought they might be but hoped they weren't.
It is one thing to get beat by a better team, it's another thing to go down without putting up a fight and this is the most frustrating part of these losses.
Barbosa gets clobbered hard enough to draw blood and instead of at least coming back with a tough response, the Suns just fold up the tent and pack it in. That is hard to take. Harder than getting beat. That is the same old soft Suns that everyone outside of Phoenix predicted coming into this series.
What's worse, is a Suns team that doesn't look like they truly believe they can win.
It shows in the gimmick zone, fronting and double teaming defenses that were an early admission of defeat. I get the strategy -- let the other guys beat you -- but what message does that send right out of the gate? It was the kind of thing that the Suns were doing in the middle of the season when there was no confidence in the defense.
"Every time we made an adjustment to slow them down, they went somewhere else," Gentry said. "They're the World Champs."
All season long, Gentry has talked about how great this Lakers team is. How long they are. How Kobe is still the best player in the world.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are young and dumb enough not to know they didn't have a chance, but the Suns are too smart for that. They played like the know they can't win, and maybe that was always the case, but at least you want to see some more fight in the process instead of getting beat by a combined 33 points in two games. That's an embarrassing admission of defeat.
All the talk about being a better defensive team, all the talk about being grittier and tougher -- in two games, it's all gone.
The Suns might play better in Phoenix for a game or two, but it's going to take an awful lot to erase giving up 126 points per game. Frye could find his stroke and guys like Farmar and Artest could lose theirs, but in the end it won't matter in the least if the Suns can't string together at least three or four good defensive games.
The Lakers have stepped up and shown they are the class of the West. I guess being second best isn't so bad. That's certainly how the Suns have acted in this series so far.
Amare Stoudemire. After all the running his mouth, he can't at least come out and play attentive defense and fight hard in the paint?
Forget about the offense. He should be ashamed of his effort and focus on the defensive end. His man was constantly moving behind him without the ball and getting wide open looks. How does that happen time and time again?
In two games on this big stage, Amare's ruined two or three months of trying to build his reputation as a complete player. He very well could have cost himself a max contract or at least being considered a guy who's worth that even if some team gives it to him.
Two games ago, Suns fans would have gladly supported writing him that check. Now? Now, it's a good thing these decisions aren't made in the heat of the moment. Now it is best to see how this plays out and spend a few weeks in reflection. Because right now after calling Lamar Odom "Lucky" and talking about how he used to abuse Pau Gasol, he just looks too foolish for words.
Pau owned him on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the only time Amare was able to score was when someone else drew the defender and set up him or perhaps on a couple of mid-range shots the Lakers didn't contest. Not once did I see him iso his man and dominate. While on the other end of the floor, he was forced to front Pau because he had no chance of stopping him one on one in the post.
After the game Amare, didn't have any answers, "They're doing a great job offensively with the triangle offense. They're moving the ball. Artest shot the ball extremely well tonight. That's something we didn't expect."
What is that? You have to at least man up and own getting whupped.
"It doesn't matter how many points I put up ... We can't come off the first two quarters and give them 30 points and then have them come in at halftime with 65 points or whatever it was. We have to find a way to stop them." That's Jason Richardson stepping up and owning it.
The Suns when small for a while and both Grant Hill and Jared Dudley played great. The Suns playoff MVP, Jason Richardson, did everything he could. But when Amare and Channing both aren't playing well, there's simply no chance and Alvin Gentry knows it, "Channing has to step up for us. That's the bottom line. We need him on the floor. He's a good post defender for us, but he's going to have to be able to make some shots."
The defensive story was actually pretty simple. The Lakers reacted to whatever defense the Suns tried. When they played straight up, they attacked in the post using their individual mismatches. When they doubled or fronted, they moved the ball and found and made open shots. The Suns were able to disrupt them for a few moments here or there, but never were able to sustain any kind of defensive momentum.
Ron Artest of all people summed it up best, "They wanted to double Kobe ... but it wasn't strong doubles, so he was able to actually make shots and he was able to slice through some defenders and he was able to pass and find open guys."
Over the next few days we are going to hear a lot of this from Coach Gentry, "The only thing they've done is what they've supposed to do (hold home court)." But then perhaps showed his true hand by adding, "We'll go with that."
At least Nash has some hope left, "Hopefully, they won't shoot as well in our building as they did here."
And if you still have hope, more power to you. It certainly is possible for the Suns to turn this around and win the next two games and at least force a longer series. That's obviously one goal, but in my mind the more important objective is just to show some pride in their defense and find a way to fight hard for 48 minutes on Sunday. I'll take that as a way to close the book on a better than expected season.
Post Game Audio: