When asked what the first thing he told his team when they assembled for camp, Boston head coach Doc Rivers' reply was simple: "Defense."
He knew that with the "Big Three" of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and freshly crowned Finals MVP Paul Pierce, scoring would not be too much of a problem, but that if they came together as a single unit, moving as one on defense, this team could become something special.
Special is just what the Boston Celtics became Tuesday night, when they won their record 17th championship.
An ABC commentator during Game 6 in Boston Tuesday night said that the Celtics' defense "look like they are all tied together with a string: when one moves, they all move." They played tough, hard-nosed defense all season long, and kicked it up a notch in the Finals against a potent Lakers team.
They consistently made the 7-footer, Pau Gasol, look like 5'5'' Earl Boykins...no offense to Earl. Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player in the league, was limited to mostly long-range jump shots, because each time he tried drive the basketball, he was immediately surrounded by three, sometimes four Boston defenders.
This wasn't Bostons first go-round with great players, either. They caused the man-child, LeBron James, to have one of his worst shooting performances through a series in his career thus far. Richard Hamilton shot well against the Celtics, but who else consistently contributed on the offensive end in the Eastern Conference Finals? Tayshaun Prince was shut down completely, and Rasheed Wallace was forced to shoot long range shots because he was overmatched in the post.
This year's Boston Celtics dominated their opponents on the defensive side of the ball, and overcame large deficits at times in the playoffs because they would lock down defensively for extended periods of time.
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are fun to watch, but in order to win in this league, or any other league for that matter, you have to have more than just offense. Offense may sell tickets, but defense wins championships.