Pivot Points: L.A. Lakers Defense Wins, While Boston Celtics Win Without
Talk about your basic role reversals. The Boston Celtics are known for their rugged defense, and their ability to clamp down on opponents, but that trait deserted them last night as they were forced into a shoot-out with the New York Knicks.
The Los Angeles Lakers are capable of playing great defense in spurts, but are more known for their crisp precision on the offensive side of the floor, however against the Oklahoma City Thunder, they were able to sustain defensive dominance throughout the game.
Boston continued their uninspired play in the month of November and were extended to the brink by the lowly Knicks. The Celtics needed a last second shot, in overtime from Kevin Garnett to secure the win.
There is something that I have noticed from watching the Celtics play, and that issue was in full display against New York. Their defense is not as tight as it has been in the past few years.
It may be age catching up with them, or it may just be the subtle difference that comes when blending in new players. I'm not sure which one it is, but I can see where they were hurt on the floor last night.
Boston was horrible when rotating on defensive shifts, and they were constantly caught out of position in the post. They allowed the younger Knicks to consistently outer-bound them when the Knicks made their critical run in the third quarter.
That, with the fact that the only Celtic able to hit any shots, was Paul Pierce, and you have a recipe for an unexpected loss.
Ray Allen and Garnett seemed to take turns missing shots in the third quarter, although both did hit important shots in the pivotal fourth quarter where the Celtics were able to force overtime.
Boston, with time, can reverse many of their defensive issues since they are more a matter of technique and timing.
But the question of age is still something that requires adjustment and improvisation to make it work.
It seems evident that Allen may have lost a step, and Garnett may not be fully recovered from the knee injury, since he still seems to lack some of his former explosiveness.
The depth of the Celtics' bench may be something they have to fall back on as the season progresses and the schedule becomes more difficult.
In Los Angeles, there would be no overtime sessions this go-around, as the Lakers dominated from the opening tip and had the game basically won by the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder were able to extend the Lakers to an extra period in their first meeting, but this time fell victim to an inspired and suffocating swarm of purple and gold.
The Lakers completely jumped on the young Thunder and made them pay dearly for each mistake, forcing 19 turnovers and converting them into 25 points. It was a thorough beat-down in every since of the word.
To be able to play this type of defense is nothing new for the Lakers, but to be able to employ it the duration of a game is a cloth of a different color.
It's one of the things that drive fans crazy about the Lakers, because they have the potential to be the best defensive team in the league, but show neither the desire nor the will, to make that potential real.
If they could manifest that effort every night, they would be more of a dread to the rest of the league than they already are. Their offense has been in great shape all year, and last night was no different, as several Lakers had big games.
Andrew Bynum continued his dominance in the post with 25 points and nine rebounds, while Pau Gasol continued to demonstrate his value to the Lakers by having a commanding performance on both ends of the floor.
The Lakers' team is a different animal with Gasol in the line-up. Not to mention the Kobe cushion of 26 points in this game.
Gone is the pre-Gasol urgency that was present, replaced with the contentment of letting the game flow to him.
For the first time it seemed, the Lakers played with the confidence of a champion, recognizing the importance of taking the spirit away from an opponent and ending the game early.
The Boston Celtics are former champions and it would serve them well to recapture the aura of fear and confidence that they projected on so many of their challengers, because right now opponents are no longer in awe of the Celtics.
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