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Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns first-round series would have been a reasonable pre-season prediction. The Lakers, defending a championship and importing a number of high-profile players in the offseason, appeared likely to land somewhere near the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Suns, fresh off an 8-0 bubble experience in Orlando and the acquisition of Chris Paul, looked primed to return to the playoffs in a lower seed. There even would have been a bit of poetry to it. Phoenix’s last playoff opponent prior to its decade-long postseason absence? The Lakers in the 2010 Western Conference finals.
We ended up getting that Lakers-Suns series in the first round after all … but not in the form we expected. The Suns turned out to be the regular-season juggernaut that came within a game of home-court advantage while the Lakers struggled due to a variety of injuries.
They needed a miraculous comeback victory over the Golden State Warriors in the play-in round just to get to this point. Phoenix clinched its playoff spot almost a month ago.
Yet the Las Vegas books have been very clear: The Lakers are the favorites in this series even without home-court advantage. The basketball world still believes even in a hobbled LeBron James, and as the series approaches, it’s worth diving into why that is and what the Suns will need to beat the odds and knock off the defending champs