The Lakers, on any given night, can play defense as well as any team to ever grace the league. They held LeBron James to 23 points on the first of their two recent encounters and a measly 16 on their second.
During their flashy 7-0 start to open up the season, they were holding opponents to an average of 86 ppg. Their eighth game was a night of firsts. It not only marked the first loss of the season for the Lakers, but also happened to mark the first night their defense had allowed an opponent to score 100 or more points.
Has this pattern changed for the Lakers since? Not much. Until as recently as two weeks ago, the Lakers had not lost a game in which they held an opponent to under 100 points.
Offense is a given for this team. Kobe Bryant alone has that effect, never mind the rest of the offensive potency this team has to offer.
The question here is, will the Lakers rely solely on their depth and offensive potency in order to put teams down, or will they score AND play the hard-nosed defense that we’ve seen that this team is so capable of?
Make no mistake about it, the Lakers can consistently beat most teams in this league with pure offense.
Unfortunately, Boston isn't one of those teams, and if the Lakers want this season to end on a higher note than it did last year, they will need to gain much more consistency on the defensive end by actually fighting through picks, denying mismatches, and playing the kind of sound, excellently-coached basketball they played last night when they denied Yao Ming the ball for nearly the entirety of the game.
For the Lakers' part, the road to the championship title is pretty straightforward: Remain focused, play aggressive, and give Kobe Bryant as much fourth-quarter rest as possible.
Without that formula, the Lakers are nothing more than a bunch of talented players nursing a superior record; if they choose to implement that formula, however, no team will be able to stand in their way as they redeem last year’s championship loss and Phil Jackson will finally become the first coach to obtain double-digit championship titles in the history of basketball.