Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Defensive State of Mind

The first thing I do when I wake up every morning is fire up my iPad and go directly to ESPN.com to read Henry Abbott's " Truehoop" blog. It's like clockwork. I find this blog so entertaining because the topics are different and off-the-wall. So, to my delight, on Monday I had my "First Cup" like I always do, but this one was a little different, like someone threw and extra shot of espresso in it for me. Mr. Abbott had posed what he called a "defensive writing challenge" open to any and all who dared, and I dare, so here is my attempt.

April 27, 2010 Los Angeles Lakers: 111 OKC Thunder: 87

The old adage says defense wins championships, but on Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers showed that defense wins key first-round playoff games as well. After two embarrassing losses at the newly named "Loud" Center, the Lakers came home and clamped down the straps on the defensive end, and silenced the ever so booming Thunder.

There was something different at the start of game five though, reports had it that Kobe Bryant had gone to Phil Jackson and asked to cover Russell Westbrook, and Phil granted Kobe his wish. With Kobe checking Westbrook, Derek Fisher slid over to guard the more defensive minded Thabo Sefolosha. All other defensive assignments remained intact for the Lakers, and putting Kobe on Westbrook proved to be a beautifully Zen move.

Instead of using strength and force as Fisher so dreadfully tried against the much quicker Westbrook, Kobe deployed the same defense that he used on Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, containment. Kobe gave Westbrook about an arms length worth of space and dared the streaky shooter to beat him with the jump shot. Not allowing Westbrook to get any easy drives to the basket, lead to him having less confidence in his jumper.

While Kobe was containing Westbrook, Artest was doing his nightly tango with Kevin Durant. There is not much one can do when trying to contain the 21 year old scoring champion; but if there is anything that can frustrate him, it is physicality, and Ron Artest has plenty of it to dish out. Artest's constant contact, reaching and bumping seems to have Durant forcing his shot a bit in the three games at Staples Center.

The Lakers interior defense, meanwhile, stayed out of foul trouble and cleaned up the defensive glass better than a window washer on a LA high rise could ever dream of. The Lakers bettered the Thunder on the defensive glass by seven, 35 to 28, and also won the overall battle of the boards 45 to 42, which was something they didn't accomplish in either game in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder must have forgot their defense at the airport, because they didn't play any. Westbrook allowed Derek Fisher to penetrate at will, and Thabo Sefolosha gave Kobe the room to survey and orchestrate whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. With the lane so vastly open for the Laker guards, it was very difficult for the Thunder bigs to recover back to their original defensive assignments.

The defense of Oklahoma City just did not show any energy or desire. They got out hustled to every loose ball, they got beat to every long rebound and they got completely out defended by the "old" and "tired" Lakers.

I know it's a long shot, but we should change the old adage that defense wins championships to DEFENSE WINS, PERIOD.

1 comment:

  1. Rad, Shout-Out by ESPN... Congrats!