There is no doubt that a little brother complex exists for those who reside in Phoenix, Arizona when referencing the city of Los Angeles, California. As my father once stated, “Phoenix was a wide spot in the road on the way to L.A. until Jerry Colangelo brought the Suns here”. I actually once told the former Suns coach, executive, and majority owner that exact statement when I met him in 2019. It was mildly awkward but my dad would appreciate it.
My pops felt that inferiority complex and wanted to leave the Valley of the Sun, choosing to do so when he was accepted to Loyola Marymount University in the early 1960’s. Location? Los Angeles, California. He returned to Phoenix years later, settled down, married my mother, and began a family. His first three kids were born here, myself included, before he chose to move his family back out to the coast. He opted to settle in the San Fernando Valley in North Hills, California.
Yes, when I was three years-old, I lived 24 miles away from the Great Western Forum. This was during the height of the Showtime Lakers Era. Although my dad loved Los Angeles, he never strayed from the Phoenix mindset. I was raised a Suns fan, with my mother making eyes at Tom Chambers and my dad bad mouthing Magic Johnson.
Although some of my other sports affiliations remain loyal to Los Angeles — I annoyingly bleed blue — the Suns vs. Lakers rivalry was one I grew up defending on the playgrounds of St. John Baptist de la Salle on Chatsworth and Hayvenhurst. It wasn’t until my family’s return to Phoenix in January of 1995, with two more kids in stow, that I found kindred spirits on the courts of Creighton School.
We all have our reasons for disliking the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mine is rooted in the Suns’ late-80’s performances against Showtime which fortified the second-class city complex of my father before me. It grew as the Suns battled the Lakers throughout the 2000’s and the Seven Seconds or Less Era. It crescendoed in 2010 on a missed Kobe three.
What is your reason? Which series stirred something inside you like an endoparasitoid extraterrestrial species? What moment did that feeling begin to grow into something uncontrollable? Which Laker pushed you over the edge, with your emotion ultimately shooting out of your stomach like an Alien?
On Sunday afternoon the Phoenix Suns will go to battle with the Los Angeles Lakers in the First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs. It will mark the 63rd game the two franchises have shared the postseason court as they commence their 13th series.
When the @Suns play the @Lakers on Sunday it will mark the 13th playoff meeting between the 2 franchises.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) May 21, 2021
This sets a new Western Conf record for most times met in the postseason. Only Celtics vs. Knicks (14) and Celtics vs. 76ers (21) have met more times overall in the playoffs
The Spurs are a close second for the Suns, having played Phoenix in 10 series for a total of 47 games. All of those games occurred between 1992 and 2010. But L.A.? Phoenix has been playing them in the playoffs since the Nixon administration.
It has been a mostly one-sided rivalry as Los Angeles has posted a record of 38-24, winning 8 of the 12 series played. Los Angeles won the first 6 meetings, but Phoenix has gone 4-2 since.
What do you know about the 51-year playoff history versus the (uglier) purple and gold? Allow me the opportunity to share with you a blow-by-blow look at the matchups between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers.
1970 Playoffs - West Division Semifinals
Lakers 4, Suns 3
The first postseason matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers commenced on March 25, 1970. That’s right...51 years ago. Zeppelin III hadn’t even been released yet.
Although many reference the ill-fated coin flip of March 19, 1969, which cost the Suns the #1 pick and Lew Alcindor, you don’t hear much about the coin flip with the Seattle SuperSonics. That same summer Phoenix and Seattle flipped for the rights to acquire the talented — but reputationally fractured — Rucker Park legend and ABA MVP Connie Hawkins.
The second-year Suns traded Gary Gregor to the Atlanta Hawks for rebounding machine Paul Silas. Paired with Hawkins, Neal Walk (the Lew Alcindor consolation prize) and second-year center Jim Fox, the Suns had quite the frontcourt. Sprinkle in All-Star reserve guard Dick Van Arsdale and future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich, and Phoenix was primed to compete.
The team looked to improve on their inaugural season record of 16-66. It was a rough start for Phoenix, however, as they posted a 15-23 record under head coach Red Kerr. Jerry Colangelo chose to replace Kerr over New Year’s 1970...with himself. From there the Suns went 24-20 to end the season. Their 39-43 record was good enough to slot them 4th in the Western Conference and secure the franchise’s first ever playoff berth.
Their reward? Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and the #2 seeded Los Angeles Lakers (back then that playoff format was #1 vs. #3, #2 vs. #4).
Phoenix lost their first-ever playoff game, 128-112, despite 70 combined points from Hawkins, Silas, and Van Arsdale. Chamberlain, West, and Baylor combined for 88.
The Suns did something surprising. Over the next three games Connie Hawkins averaged 25.7 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 7.6 assists — including a 34 and 20 Game 2. Phoenix won all three games and took a 3-1 series lead over the Lakers.
In a premonition of things to come for years and years, the Suns lost the next three games by an average of 20 points, dropping Game 7 to Los Angeles by a score of 129-94. Phoenix shot just 32.4% from the field in that game and put the Lakers on the line 36 times.
The Lakers would continue their season en route to an NBA Finals loss to the New York Knicks. The Suns would not make another playoff appearance until the 1975-76 “Sunderella Suns” and their march to the NBA Finals.
1980 Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals
Lakers 4, Suns 1
The postseason paths of the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers would not cross again for 10 seasons. On April 8, 1980, one day shy of exactly 10 years prior to their previous playoff meeting, the two locked horns again.
The Suns were coming off of a successful 1978-79 season that saw them advance to the Western Conference Finals, only to lose in dramatic fashion to the eventual NBA Champion Seattle SuperSonics. The team carried over much the roster — which included Paul Westphal, Walter Davis, Don Buse, Alvan Adams, and Truck Robinson — into the 1979-80 season.
The Lakers finished the 1978-79 season just as the Suns had: with a playoff loss to the Sonics. Despite a 47-35 record and the 8th best record in the league, Los Angeles landed the #1 overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. The New Orleans Jazz had traded the pick to the Lakers as a part of a 1976 transaction. The Jazz finished with the worst record in the NBA and, seeing as them was coin flippin’ days, the Lakers would flip against the Bulls for the top pick.
What did that flip garner? Earvin Johnson.
Magic joined a team that included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, and Michael Cooper. The Showtime Era had begun. [inset ominous music here]
The Suns had a stellar season, compiling a record of 55-27, the best Suns record to date. Paul Westphal earned a All-NBA First Team nod; Don Buse was All-NBA Defensive Team. Alvin Adams and Truck Robinson dominated the interior.
Even with a 55-win season under their belt, the top heavy Western Conference had two other team with better records (Lakers, 60 wins and Sonics, 56 wins) and one other division winner (Bucks, 49 wins).
Therefore the Suns would be positioned as the #4 seed. The playoff format in 1980 allowed the top two teams in each conference to have first round byes, with #3 vs. #6 and #4 vs. #5 playing best-of-three series. The NBA has been tweaking the playoff format for years.
Their first round matchup was against the #5 seeded Kansas City Kings. Their leading scorer? Otis Birdsong. The Suns won in 3, dominating that Kings in a win-or-go-home Game 3 by a score of 114-99. It was off to the City of Angels.
The 1980 series against the Lakers was a gentleman’s sweep as the Suns went down 3-0, won Game 4, and lost in Game 5:
- Game 1: Lakers 119, Suns 110
- Game 2: Lakers 131, Suns 128
- Game 3: Lakers 108, Suns 105
- Game 4: Suns 127, Lakers 101
- Game 5: Lakers 126, Suns 101
Here is Game 3 for your viewing pleasure:
Kareem averaged 31.8 points and 11.0 rebounds. Magic, in his inaugural playoff series, went for 15.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 11.0 assists. Westy had 21.8 points and Davis added 21.2, but the berth of Showtime marked a changing in the way the NBA was played. Their fast paced game contradicted the “beat them up inside” mentality of many NBA teams as the time, the Suns included.
The Lakers would advance to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals and defeat Julius Erving, Darryl Dawkins, and Maurice Cheeks 4-2.
1982 Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals
Lakers 4, Suns 0
Two years later, the Suns and Lakers were at it again. The result? The same — a theme for the 80’s matchups between the two franchises.
The Suns had changed a bit, opting to trade Paul Westphal to the Seattle SuperSonics following the 1980 playoff loss to Los Angeles for defensively minded Dennis Johnson. Perhaps Colangelo saw the writing on the wall and realized that, in order to slow the Lakers machine, you would need to impede Magic Johnson.
4th-year guard Walter Davis fractured his elbow on October 23 and had an off year, averaging only 14.4 points a game. Phoenix finished with a 46-36 record and a #4 seed once again, this time defeating the Denver Nuggets 2-1 in the first round.
And siting there waiting for them in the Western Conference Semifinals? You guessed it. Kareem. Magic. And the Lakers.
It was Jordan Wilkes’ series against the Suns in ’82 as he averaged 24.3 points per game, aided by Magic’s 20.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 10.8 assists. Los Angeles averaged 114.1 points; the Suns 101.8.
Here is the clincher for the Lakers:
The Lakers went on to win their 8th NBA Championship as they mowed through the Spurs (4-0) in the Western Conference Finals and the 76ers (4-2) in the NBA Finals.
1984 Playoffs - Western Conference Finals
Lakers 4, Suns 2
Ah, the 1984-85 Phoenix Suns.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, with hours upon hours at my disposal, I put together a comprehensive recap of the entire season. It was a 5,665 word dissertation about a team not many remember.
This series was referred to as Work Ethic (Suns) vs. Talent (Lakers). Phoenix finished the season at 41-41. Not much was expected from a team that had traded Dennis Johnson for Rick Robey the prior offseason. The team underperformed during the regular season, but ended on a 6-0 winning streak as the playoffs commenced.
The sixth-seeded Suns upset the Portland TrailBlazers in a best-of-five series first round and the second-seeded Utah Jazz on their improbable way to the Western Conference Finals.
Once again, it was Los Angeles. The Lakers, who finished with the top seed in the West, were 54-28 during the regular season. The Suns had success against them in the regular season, however, winning 3 of the 5 contests. Confidence was high that this team could keep the Cinderella dancing at the ball.
The Lakers won the first two games easily at home. The Suns came home and won an entertaining Game 3.
Game 4 to L.A., Game 5 to Phoenix.
Game 6 was a helluva match. The Lakers beat the Suns 99-97 in a game that I wish I could find footage of. Magic had a triple-double (16 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds), James Worthy got his first start of the series, and the Lakers prevailed.
The Suns were up 1 entering the 4th, and they missed a last second shot that could’ve tied it. The shot was missed, and midnight struck for the Cinderella Suns.
The Lakers would go on to lose in an epic seven games to Larry Bird and the Celtics.
1985 Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Lakers 3, Suns 0
Noticing a theme here, eh? The early rivalry wasn’t a rivalry at all. The Suns were a doormat for the Lakers on their way to the NAB Finals year after year.
1985 was no different.
Phoenix was an inured squad, having a roster that had missed a total of 269 missed games during the season. Walter Davis had injured his knee early in the year as he slipped on the floor at the Forum in Los Angeles and ultimately missed the playoffs.
And the Lakers were still the Showtime Lakers. Los Angeles entered as the 62-win #1 seed; the Suns were #8.
3 and out for Phoenix. The Lakers would play Larry and the Celtics once again in the NBA Finals, winning this time in 6 games.
1989 Playoffs - Western Conference Finals
Lakers 4, Suns 0
Six postseason series against the Suns, six wins for the Lakers.
This was a different team that Los Angeles was playing, however. The roster had changed dramatically in four seasons as gone were Walter Davis, Maurice Lucas, and Alvan Adams. This version of the Phoenix Suns had names like Jeff Horacek, Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers, Eddie Johnson, and a rookie Dan Majerle.
Phoenix was the highest scoring team in the league and had morphed from the slow-motion offense of the early-80’s to a fast paced scoring juggernaut. Couple that with 5th best defensive rating and this team had championship aspirations. Three players on the team (Chambers, E. Johnson, and K. Johnson) averaged over 20 points a night.
The Suns arrived at the Western Conference Finals with the #3 seed and confidence, having blown through the Denver Nuggets (3-0) and Golden State Warriors (4-1) in the previous two rounds.
Six-year old me remembers this series pretty well. Kids on my t-ball team loved the Lakers. I did not. And they won in convincing fashion. I don’t recall specifics, but as Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. And I felt like a Suns fan.
This is the series that began my disdain for the Lakers. In Kareem’s 20th and final season in the NBA, led by James Worthy’s 25.0 points, Magic’s 20.3 points and 14.3 assists, and Byron Scott’s 24.8 points, Los Angeles mowed the Suns down in 4 games.
Hall of Fame coach Cotton Fitzsimmons summed it up best after Game 4. ‘’We didn’t think the Lakers could come in here and sweep us,’’ he said. ‘’We thought we’d win both games here, and I mean that sincerely. But the Lakers are a great team. I thought this was the best game they played in the playoffs so far. They were just too good.’’
There was no stopping L.A.. They swept the first round, the Semifinals, and the WCF. They were the first team to so do in the NBA history. In a strange twist of fate, however, the Lakers would be swept in the 1989 NBA Finals by the Bad Buys of Detroit.
1990 Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals
Suns 4, Lakers 1
Phoenix was 0-1 in the 1970’s against the Lakers and 0-5 in the 1980’s. They started the 1990’s off right with by beating their division foe in convincing fashion, putting a fork into the Showtime Lakers and declaring, “done”.
The 1990 playoffs were a changing of the guard moment and the Suns were there to capitalize.
The Lakers had been to the Finals the each of the previous three years and 7 of the last 9. Were they tired? Sure. Still, the Lakers entered the playoffs after going 63-19 in the regular season and earning the #1 seed in the West.
Phoenix dropped a 54-28 record that year which put them in the mix at #5. Tom Chambers was at the peak of his powers, pouring in 56 points on February 18 and the 60 a month later against Seattle. Kevin Johnson set a franchise record for assists-per-game at 11.2.
The Suns faced Karl Malone, and John Stockton, and the Jazz in the First Round in what turned out to be quite the memorable series. Kevin Johnson solidified himself as my favorite Sun (that is, until Shawn Marion came around) with a free-throw line jumper that sealed the series in Game 5.
It was once again off to Los Angeles for the Phoenix Suns.
Up to that point, Cotton Fitzsimmons was 0-37 against the Lakers at the Great Western Forum and that Suns had lost 21 straight in LA going back to 1984. Whoa, Doc, that’s heavy. But the times, there were a-changin’.
The Suns entered the 4th quarter of Game 1 in Los Angeles down 84-78, but outscored the three-time defending Western Conference Champions 26-18 to win the game 104-102. Mark West led the Suns with 24 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Magic and the Lakers fought back and smoked the Suns in Game 2, 124-100, but that would be their last win of the season. The Suns won Game 3 by 14, Game 4 by 13, and Game 5 by 3.
It was a watershed moment for the Suns franchise. In seven postseason series against the Lakers, they finally won one. I was elated at their progress (and pissed as hell when they lost to the Portland TrailBlazers in the 1990 WCF) and held my chin high at school. The Suns were no longer a wide spot in the road on the way to L.A.. They were a team to beware of moving forward.
Kevin Johnson went for 22 points and 11.2 assists in the series. Tom Chambers was good for 21.6 points. The team played like a team and slayed the demons of the 70’s and 80’s.
1993 Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Suns 3, Lakers 2
For the first time since the 1970 Playoffs, the Phoenix Suns would meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the postseason without having to hear the words, “Magic Johnson”.
Los Angeles finished the regular season 39-43 and were led in scoring by Sedale Threatt’s 15.1 points. You read that right. Worthy was in his 10th season and slowing down, “Sleepy” Sam Perkins, A.C. Green, Byron Scott...it wasn’t exactly a murder’s row of talent facing the Suns in the first round.
Conversely, Phoenix was a well oiled machine, having added Charles Barkley to the fray prior to the start of the season. Phoenix was electric as Thunder Dan was cashing in three’s at a 38.1% clip and Barkley was en route to an MVP Award. The team had the best offense in the league.
Phoenix ended the season with the top record in the league, 62-20.
The Suns drew the #8 seeded Lakers and for once, it was expected that the Suns would win. But this is the story of the Sun/Laker rivalry, remember?
Game 1 was in Phoenix and the Suns lost at home, 107-103. Threatt went for 35 points and 7 assists. The Suns couldn’t overcome a lackluster 2nd quarter in which they only managed to muster 13 points. They then dropped Game 2, 86-81. It was the fewest points the team had scored all season.
No team had ever lost the first two games of a series at home and come back to win.
Paul Westphal then gave Suns’ fans one of the greatest sound clips in Suns history:
Phoenix then delivered.
Charles Barkley averaged 28.6 points and 12 rebounds over the next three games as the Phoenix Suns famously backed up the words of their rookie head coach. The Lakers gave the Suns a scare, holding them to 13 points less than their season average, but ultimately the Suns prevailed.
We know the rest. Suns beat the Spurs, Suns beat the Sonics, John Paxson is a dick.
2000 Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals
Lakers 4, Suns 1
While the Lakers didn’t lose a series to Phoenix in the 70’s and 80’s, the Suns didn’t lose a series to Los Angeles in the 90’s. It was a good time to grow up and a great time to move back to Phoenix for this guy.
On to the 2000’s...
The Barkley Era was long gone. The Seven Seconds or Less Era was a few year away. In between those two distinct time periods in Suns history, the team belonged to Jason Kidd. Backcourt 2000, comprised of Kidd and Penny Hardaway, was joined by Luc Longley, Clifford Robinson, and a rookie Shawn Marion. The Suns ended the ’99-’00 campaign with a 53-29 regular season record.
After upsetting the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round 3-1, the #5 seeded Suns had to face one of the best teams in NBA history. No joke. The Lakers finished 67-15 that year, the franchise’s second-best finish ever (the 1972 Lakers finished 69-13).
The one time the Suns played both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in the playoffs wasn't pretty, especially considering Shaq was at the height of his dominance. His 29.7 points led the league and was the highest of his career. His 13.6 rebounds was his second highest effort ever. He won the MVP that year.
After a 28-point drubbing of the Suns in Game 1, 105-77, the Suns were up 1 with under one minute in Game 2. Following a missed 6-footer by Penny and the 20th rebound by Shaq, the Lakers had the ball and the last shot.
Enter the Mamba.
After dropping Game 3, the Suns earned another gentleman’s sweep by winning Game 4 by 19, 117-98.
Game 5 was an utter embarrassment as Phoenix scored a mere 23 points in the first half including only 9 in the second quarter. The Suns shot 28.8% from the field. “The ball went in and came out. That’s just part of the game,” Jason Kidd said. “On any given night you can be hot or you can be cold. We were cold.”
Todd Day led the Suns in scoring as they dropped the game and the series in a 87-65 loss at the hands of the eventual champs.
2006 Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Suns 4, Lakers 3
The 2004-05 Phoenix Suns, led by the trio of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion, took the league by storm. They revolutionized the game. They gave Suns fans something to be proud of.
Prior to the 2005-06 season, however, there was plenty of question marks. Stoudemire had micro-fractur knee surgery. Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson were replaced by Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Who would this team be?
Steve Nash played like an MVP in ’05-’06 and earned the award for his efforts. Shawn Marion was a man possessed, averaging 21.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in Amare’s absence. Phoenix finished the season 54-28, tops in the Pacific Division, and earned the #2 seed.
The Lakers were living with life post-Shaq as they were in the second year following his departure. It was Kobe’s team now, and in 2006 he was determined to will his team to victory. He averaged 35.4 points, the highest average ever in Lakers history. Los Angeles ended at 45-37 despite the scoring onslaught from Bryant.
The first round was a battle as the series went all seven games. Phoenix won Game 1 by a score of 107-102, but then dropped the next three games as Los Angeles won each game with exactly 99 points:
- Game 2: Lakers 99, Suns 93
- Game 3: Lakers 99, Suns 92
- Game 4: Lakers 99, Suns 98 in OT
Game 5 featured one of the most famous moments in Suns history as Raja Bell chose to gently guide Kobe Bryant to the ground while the team was up 14 in the 4th quarter.
The Lakers nearly beat the Suns in Game 6, as they were up 3 with under 10 seconds to play. Enter the legendary Tim Thomas shot to tie the game:
Phoenix would outscore Los Angeles 21-13 in OT and tie the series 3-3 heading back to the Valley. Kobe had 50 points in the game, but walked away with the loss.
Personally, I’ll never forget Game 7. I watched it at Jackson’s on 3rd — which is no longer open — and enjoyed every drunken minute of it. Kobe, who averaged 21.5 shots through six games, only shot the ball 16 times in a series clincher.
Jose Martinez wrote for Complex:
Was Kobe Bryant following Phil Jackson’s game plan of having him pass more and shoot less? Or was The Black Mamba stubbornly trying to prove a point that the Los Angeles Lakers needed an offensively minded Bryant in order to win games? Whatever the case, Kobe’s absence in the scoring department cost the Lakers an opportunity to topple the No. 2 seeded Phoenix Suns in Game 7.
The Suns won by 31, 121-90, and went on to not win the title.
2007 Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Suns 4, Lakers 1
One year later, the Phoenix Suns were healthy and primed to make a serious run at the NBA title. Amare was back. Nash was ready. The Suns once again had the best offense in the league. Fans were hyped. This was going to be our year.
Phoenix ran through the regular season to a tune of 61-21 which included a franchise record 17-game winning streak. Their first round opponent, those damn Lakers, finished just above .500 at 42-40. This was destined to be an easy series.
And for once, the Lakers obliged.
Leandro Barbosa, who won the Sixth Man of the Year Award, went for 26 points in Game 1, including 19 in the second half, helping the Suns win 95-87.
Game 2 featured another 26-point bench performance from Barbosa as the Suns blasted the Lakers by 28 points, 126-98. Nash added 16 points and 14 assists. Kobe, who shot 5-13 from the field, ended with 15 points.
Although the Lakers won Game 3 behind Kobe’s 45 points, the Suns had no problem downing the Lakers to the echoes of “Beat L.A.” over the next two games, winning Game 5 and advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals. Phoenix won by an average of 17 points each game.
The Suns would play the Spurs in the next round. But that my friends, is another story...
2010 Playoffs - Western Conference Finals
Lakers 4, Suns 2
The 12th time the Suns played the Lakers in the postseason carries with it heartbreak. For many, that heartbreak has lasted over a decade and is the lasting memory of our playoff fate.
The 2009-10 team surprised many Suns fans as the team had missed the playoffs the year prior. The thought was that potentially we were at the end of an era. The core of Nash, Stoudemire, and Marion were no longer together following a Marion’s trade to Miami two seasons prior. Grant Hill was on the team now and not much was expected from him in his 14th year. Shaq was toast at the end of his career.
Jason Richardson? Lou Amundson? Channing Frye? Goran Dragic? Rockin’ Robin Lopez? The group of misfits quickly became the darlings of Phoenix on their way to a surprising 54-28 record. The team gelled in a way I have seen few teams do. As Aristotle once stated, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. That was the 2009-10 Suns.
The Lakers, who the Suns easily dispatched in 2007, had changed course. The addition of Pau Gasol in 2008 changed the team’s trajectory and they won the 2009 NBA Championship. They were primed and ready to repeat after posting a 57-25 record and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs.
The #3 seeded Suns beat LaMarcus Aldridge in the first round 4-2 and swept the Spurs 4-0 in the Semifinals. Once again it would be the Lakers, and for the third time, a trip to the NBA Finals was on the line.
It appeared as if the fairytale season was over when the Lakers won both Game 1 (128-107) and Game 2 (124-112). But Phoenix rallied and won the next two at home. Amare dropped 42 in Game 3 and it was the Suns’ bench outscoring the Lakers bench 54-20 in Game 4.
And then Game 5.
With 3.5 seconds left and the series tied 2-2, Jason Richardson banked in a shot that tied the game at 101. The Suns were ready to send the game to OT, where a deflated Lakers team may let the series slip away.
Kobe took an impossible three and air balled it. Ron Artest saw the shot was going to be short and beat Richardson to the spot, snatched the ball, and laid it in for the win.
Watch if you want to feel all of those emotions again.
The Lakers would win Game 6 two nights later on May 29, 2010. The Suns would not visit the playoffs for 11 years.
One constant in Phoenix Suns history is a disdain for the team in purple and gold. It seems that every generation has it’s unique gut-wrenching moment — the playoff occurrence in which the resentment for the Lakers came to fruition.
This was both fun and painful going back, remembering, and learning about this historic rivalry with the team 350+ miles away. May of the games are just box scores on Basketball-Reference. But they were so much more. Every game, every possession; they all contributed to the psychological makeup of fans from both fanbases.
On Sunday we write a new chapter. There will be new highs, new lows, and new highlights to watch — or avoid — for years to come. The excitement of the playoffs is unparalleled.
Everything we want is on the other side of hard.
James Jones has never lost a playoff series to the Lakers.— Chris Coffel (@Chris_Coffel) May 20, 2021