PHOENIX — "Everything you want is on the other side of hard."
Of all the Monty-isms, this one resonates the most. A long playoff drought ended by a fantastic regular season, only for the Phoenix Suns to get the defending champions, with two top-five basketball players in the world on the roster, in the first round. That is hard.
"It's not like somebody did something to our Cheerios."
The Suns aren't feeling gypped or slighted or disappointed or sorry for themselves to draw the Lakers. Bring on LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the arch-rival Lakers.
Monty Williams is the perfect leader for this team in a situation like this.
Chris Paul is the perfect floor general to guide three of the five Suns starters who have never experienced playoff basketball before. But DeAndre Ayton is the X-factor.
If he gets into foul trouble, like he did in the last meeting, the Suns are toast. They don't have an athletic rim-protector to replace him. They don't have another answer for defending Anthony Davis.
Ayton doesn't need to put up 30 points and 15 rebounds a game for the Suns to win the series, but he needs to make quick decisions on both ends of the floor and stay on the floor. It's no secret that the Lakers are going to try and exploit that.
Not only are the Lakers one of the biggest teams in the NBA, but they boast the top-rated defense thanks in large part to their perimeter defense. Guard play is the strength of the Suns offense, so something will have to give.
It goes without saying that the Suns can't afford off-nights from Devin Booker, but as we have seen multiple teams do in the last month of the regular season, expect the Lakers to blitz Booker and get the ball out of his hands. In that case, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, Cam Payne and the rest of the Suns supporting cast are going to need to knock down shots.
There isn't a worse matchup in the NBA for the Suns than the LA Lakers, so they're going to need to be great. That starts on the defensive end, getting stops, and getting out in transition where their bread is buttered.
I don't think LeBron James is fully healthy (his ankle, not his eye), so perhaps that opens the door for the Suns a bit. Otherwise, everything is pointing towards the Lakers eliminating the Suns from the playoffs, again.
Maybe it's the Phoenician in me, but I just can't bring myself to pick the Lakers.
Collin Harmon series prediction: Suns in 7.
Game 1: Lakers 105 Suns 115