The Lakers' swagger is more of a stagger after consecutive losses in the Western Conference finals.
After leaving town last week to chants of ``We want Boston,'' Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol realize they won't even get the chance to defend their NBA title unless Los Angeles starts defending the Phoenix Suns.
Although Gasol says Game 5 on Thursday night is ``a must-win for us,'' the champions' California cool shows few signs of cracking, beyond Bryant's grumbling about missed defensive assignments.
HoopsVibe's Call: The Los Angeles Lakers have to get back to defending.
Look for the world champions to focus on getting stops, especially since they've struggled with their shooting against the Phoenix Suns' zone.
However, the Lakers hold the advantage. They're more talented. And two of the next three games will be played in the friendly confines of Staples Centre.
Still, as the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon pointed out last night during TNT's halftime show, these Suns aren't afraid; they can score in the halfcourt and play defense, too (even if it's a zone).
One thing is certain: expect a classic finish between L.A. and Phoenix.
Got thoughts on game five, six, and possibly seven? Let us know in the comment box below.