The Phoenix Suns turned out to be gritty, resourceful, pesky and even a bit scary.
The Los Angeles Lakers were simply better.
Over six games of the Western Conference finals, the defending NBA champions even beat the Suns at their own running game, and beat them at their specialty -- three-point shooting.
They simply outscored the Suns, partly because the Lakers dropped Kobe Bryant on them, in one of his mid-greatness runs.
"Every time we'd get close, Kobe would make an incredible shot over some good defense," said Suns coach Alvin Gentry, referring to the late stages of the Lakers' clinching victory in Game 6 Saturday night.
Gentry could have been talking about the whole series, or at least the spotty times his team did play good defense.
"There's an intense game going on, and you almost have to laugh at what he does," Gentry said in admiration.
Entertaining basketball, yes. All of the games were high-scoring shootouts, in which the Lakers averaged 113 points per game and broke out their defense only sporadically.
Thus begging the question: Is that any way for the Lakers to get ready for the Boston Celtics?
In the coming days before the NBA Finals begin, the Lakers should brace themselves for whiplash.
Phoenix is razzle-dazzle. Boston is rock solid.
Phoenix is frenetic. Boston is deliberate.
Phoenix is a brat. Boston is a bully.
Phoenix is a buzzing gnat. Boston is a bar bouncer.
Phoenix is gimmicky defense. Boston is defense.
The Lakers seemed to teeter near the edge a couple of times over the past two weeks against Phoenix, but can you remember once when they lost control of the series?
Knowing they didn't want to mess with one of those tense, anything-can-happen Game 7s -- even if it would be on their home court -- the Lakers brought out the chloroform Saturday.
The Suns had been inching closer and closer in L.A., getting comfortable at Staples Center by leaps and bounds (and better bench play). It was time to put the Suns to sleep, and just like that, the Lakers did.
They ran up a big lead early with Ron Artest (Ron Artest?) carrying the scoring load, then rode Bryant's high-performance sports car down the stretch when it got harrowing.
For the fifth consecutive postseason series, dating back to last year, the Lakers clinched on the road, ignoring a loud, hostile crowd.
Maybe this is the way to get ready for Boston. Either way, the Lakers don't have a choice.
"We're going to a series where the level of intensity and physicality is going to be at an all-time high," said Bryant of the looming matchup with Boston. "They still do a great job getting out in transition. This series prepared us well for that.
"But we're not looking at games in the 115- or 110-point range."
Center Andrew Bynum, who tends to battle foul problems, perked up when someone mentioned the inevitable grinding, physical games the Lakers and Celtics will play.
"I like it like that," he said, smiling. "That's what I need."
And Lamar Odom said the uptempo games the Lakers have been playing for six weeks against Oklahoma City, Utah and Phoenix can't do anything but help.
"We've got to be in great shape now," he said. "We've definitely got our second wind. It'll help when we play those tough games that are close down the stretch."
Truthfully, the Lakers got what they wanted, a chance to avenge the Finals defeat of 2008.
"Everyone who was on that team has been thinking about it," said Lakers forward Luke Walton. "It's like it happened yesterday."
In the end, of course, Phoenix did prepare the Lakers for the Celtics. Everything, really, prepares the Lakers for the Celtics.