Break out your hatred for all things LA tonight, boys n girls.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Western Conference's Pacific Division now looks almost as it has the past several years. The Lakers are in first place. The Clippers standing in second looks a bit odd, but the real point here my friends is that the Suns are trailing the Lakers. We are used to it, it's a fact of life for now.

Tonight the Lakers invade the desert for a matchup with postseason implications for both squads. Of course, this game matters much more to the Suns than it does to the Lakes. Nevertheless, we can expect no sympathy from our neighbors to the West, especially Kobe, who has professed his hatred of most things Phoenix.

While the Lakers have their share of issues (namely Andrew Bynum), they have won four of their last five, including an "away" game versus the Clippers. Say, that reminds me, I haven't complained about the fact that half of the Lakers games against the Clippers aren't road games at all. It's a different court, yeah, but ... Never mind ...

The time for excuses is over for the Phoenix Suns. Grant Hill, who would normally help "guard" Kobe Bryant, is out. How the Suns plan to slow the hater is a mystery. Says Mr. Paul Coro: "The defensive duty to handle Bryant probably will fall largely to starting wings Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley and perhaps Josh Childress off the bench. Bryant averages 28.1 points and has scored 48, 36 and 32 in three previous meetings this season with the Suns," which was pretty much what I was thinking. I mean, you aren't going to expect Robin Lopez to handle the job.

Aside from curtailing Bryant's dominance (while praying to the NBA gods for a sudden onset of a stomach bug), the Suns have other worries. Namely the effects of a second night of a back to back. Oh, and then there are the Lakers' other players, Gasol, Bynum and the newly acquired Ramon Sessions. To steal a little snippet from Mr. Lowe at SI, Sessions has helped out the offense, while not helping on the defensive end:

Lakers have yielded about 109.5 points per 100 possessions since the trade deadline when Sessions sits and about 103.9 when he's on the floor. The first mark would rank dead last in the league, and the second would rank among the bottom ten defensive teams.


Keys to Victory

In the last matchup in which the Suns sauntered away victorious, Kobe Bryant dropped 32, but he also missed a lot of shots, and he gave the rock away to the tune of 10 times. I don't expect the same type of futility tonight. The Suns will have to throw a bunch of different defensive looks and players at him to keep him in check.

As for the rest ... the Suns have to flat out play. Attack Bynum, force him into whiney foul-prone mode. Gortat and Lopez played 34 and 13 minutes respectively last night. Both will need to step up huge -- ATTACK the Laker bigs. If the problem last night was lack of offensive execution (41% FG), well heck man, EXECUTE. Channing Frye is always an easy target when discussing problems with the Suns inability to score. So, I'll take some aim ... Frye needs to find his stroke tonight. Hit some from outside early on, draw the L.A. bigs out and let Lopez and Gortat do their thing.

You know Shannon Brown will be motivated tonight in facing his old squad. Chipping in on the defensive end will bring back old memories for both Brown and Bryant: "Ain't no different in a practice than in a game ... we went hard all the time. It's definitely a difficult task," Shannon said.

I suppose I could have saved everyone some time by just stating, "the Suns need to come out and play one of their best games of the season tonight," which is pretty much what needs to happen.

"Offensively, I have to attack because I know he [Bryant] likes to attack a lot ... on the road, he's a lot more aggressive. Hopefully, we get an early lead and try to contain him the best we can."

-Jared Dudley

GAME DAY LINKS


Another Bynum Ejection, Another Loss to the Rockets: Lake Show Life

Somebody has got to explain to Bynum that his temper tantrums are getting more costly at this point in the season. Baby Bynum's selfish ways again put his emotions before the team. There is no excuse for these continued outbursts. Coach Brown can't keep down playing these problems. It is only a matter of time until Bynum's immature antics invade the locker room.

The Sessions Effect-How Ramon Sessions Has Changed the Lakers: www.silverscreenandroll.com

Lowe is also right that the defense has suffered since Sessions was acquired. As I see it, there are four likely reasons why the defense might be suffering:

Ramon Sessions is a bad defensive player
1. The increased offensive output has allowed the Lakers to build big leads and therefore caused them to relax defensively
2. The Lakers are tired, and defensive intensity is the first thing to go.
3. Andrew Bynum is Andrew Bynum

Blake Griffin Given Flagrant 1 for Push Against Pau Gasol: LA TIMES

Upon further review, the Lakers asked the NBA to take a closer look at three plays involving the Clippers' Blake Griffin.The league's response: They were all called correctly with the exception of the forward's third-quarter shove from behind on Lakers counterpart Pau Gasol on Wednesday, which was changed to a flagrant-one foul.


Phoenix Suns 125, Los Angeles Lakers 105 Just over a week ago when the Phoenix Suns were sitting at 25-26 and two games back of the No. 8 seed, head coach Alvin Gentry made it clear that his team...

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Man, what could have been if the Suns could have stolen one in Denver. Of course there are many games left for the Suns, all of them difficult, begin tonight against the Lakers at home.

HERE'S HOW THE STANDINGS STAND AT THE MOMENT:

Screen_shot_2012-04-07_at_10

AND HERE'S WHAT WENT DOWN LAST NIGHT (the ones that mattered):

MEMPHIS (5) 97-HEAT 82...Straightouttavancouver.com:

Yet, tonight's biggest impact came off our bench. Zach Randolph once again played the role of super-sub with 14 points and 14 rebounds. O.J. Mayo chipped in 10 of his, and Gilbert Arenas had it going from deep. All five of his shots were from beyond the arc and he drained 4 of them. Overall, seven Grizzlies reached double figues in points. This balanced attack was a sharp contrast to the Heat, who saw their Big 3 combine for 60 of their 82 points.

PORTLAND 99-DALLAS (6) 97...www.blazersedge.com:

Raymond Felton pounds the Mavericks in places they didn't know they had, pushing the Blazers ahead of the Mavericks after a slow start. Dallas' comeback in the fourth quarter forces overtime but LaMarcus Aldridge hits a fade-away to win the game at the OT buzzer.

UTAH (9) 104-GOLDEN STATE 98....www.slcdunk.com

Woo! Jazz now need 7 more wins for playoff contention!

The Utah Jazz defeated the Golden State warriors in an epic battle tonight. Well, maybe not epic. 'State was playing with two of their best players, and somehow Nate Robinson shot the ball 10 times. So, it was the Jazz game to win from the outside. Warriors Head coaching calling crunch time plays that ended up with Andris Biedrins taking jumpers gets you exactly the result you are looking for: a loss.

HOUSTON 112-LAKERS 107...www.thedreamshake.com

Chandler Parsons was a second round pick. Marcus Camby was acquired for a second round pick. Luis Scola was acquired for a second round pick and Billy Spanoulis. Goran Dragic was had for a guy playing in China right now (and a first round pick on top of that).

And yet, this ragtag group manages to pull off amazing wins against teams with much more pedigree than them. And in this one, the Rockets did what they do best, closing out a great win against a team that had gotten used to slamming the door on them.


The Suns can't hang their heads now...They have another big game tonight!

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Last night was a heartbreaking loss for the Phoenix Suns who went from looking at a tie for the 8th and final seed of the NBA playoffs to falling back to the 10th spot in the Western Conference after the loss to the Denver Nuggets.

If you saw the game last night, or read the previous recap of the game, then you already understand what the biggest cause of the loss was--turnovers. The Suns committed 16 turnovers that led to 26 points for the Nuggets...Compare that to the season low 5 turnovers committed by the Nuggets which led to just 4 points for the Phoenix Suns, and it becomes crystal clear just how big of a disadvantage that really was.

In addition to the turnovers, the Suns offense looked disjointed and out-of-sync, especially when the Suns' starters returned halfway through the 4th quarter. Up until that point, the Suns' bench had gone on a 13-1 run to give the Suns a 92-87 lead. But once the starting unit returned it was turnovers, bad shots, missed shots, and slow transition defense quickly turned the tables.

If the Suns would have been able to overcome such a significant pitfall it would have spoke to their tremendous effort and resolve to overcome such a sloppy offensive game...and don't get me wrong, the effort was definitely there, but Denver fought just as hard and ultimately capitalized on the Suns mistakes going on a 18-4 run to close out the 4th quarter and win the game.

Read on after the jump for some post game quotes, twitter posts, and a sad photo

Post Game Quotes

Here's what Alvin Gentry had to say about the loss:

"We did everything we needed to do to be in a position to win and then had very poor execution for the last three or four minutes of the game"

"We've got to get the ball in the basket and come back and take away some of the easy stuff."

"We know that we blew a great opportunity"

"We've got to go back home and try to rectify what happened here"

"We have zero margin of error."


Here's Steve Nash:

"It was a bad loss for us"

"We had a bad close to the game and didn't make plays down the stretch."


From the Twitter-verse


I'm going to count to 10.

— Steve Nash (@SteveNash) April 7, 2012

It didn't help much frankly.

— Steve Nash (@SteveNash) April 7, 2012


We played to well to end the game like that.. Couldn't score the last 3 minutes and let Andre Miller take over. Gotta put this behind us

Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) April 7, 2012


Big lost. Feel like crying!! lockerz.com/s/199181493

Sebastian Telfair (@BassyS31T) April 7, 2012

and his photo:

Bassy_frye_medium






Going Forward:


The Suns can't afford to dwell on this loss...they have another big game tonight at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. One thing in the Suns' favor is that the Lakers seem to be on a downward spiral with the chemistry between the coach and the players reaching an all-time low. The Suns need to put this game behind them and climb right back into the fray with a win tonight!



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If the Phoenix Suns are ultimately unable to do the unthinkable and sneak into the playoffs, Friday night’s 105-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets will be forever viewed as — like Katy Perry...

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