An "Artest"ament to Greatness: Best Laker Defense Ever?
When you think of the great Laker teams in history, you think of Jerry West's unbelievable court vision and Wilt Chamberlain's routine 30-40 point games. Magic Johnson's "Showtime" offense with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also comes to mind. The early 2000s also comes to mind, where an overwhelming post presence in Shaquille O'Neal paired with the high-flying Kobe Bryant overwhelmed the opposition.
None of these teams however were noted for their dominating defense.
The 2010 Lakers could score, that was for sure, They had the best player in the NBA in Kobe Bryant, the premier power-forward in the NBA in Pau Gasol, a steady backcourt mate in Derek Fisher, and the best sixth-man in the NBA, sans Manu Ginobli, in Lamar Odom.
But when their usually high-flying offense was shut down against the brutish defense of Doc Rivers' Boston Celtics, the Lakers showed a side that I personally did not know even existed.
They beat the Boston Celtics at their own grind-it-out style.
Kobe Bryant took Rajon Rondo out of the game for long stretches at a time, while Pau Gasol and a crippled Andrew Bynum did a great job frustrating the Celtics' big men. Fisher did an admirable job fighting through as many as five or six screens in one offensive sequence while chasing Ray Allen, and Ron Artest's defense on Paul Pierce was nothing short of a masterpiece.
Not only was it individual matchups, but their defensive rotations were outstanding. Very rarely were any Celtics players open, and their defensive tenacity resulted in multi-steal games from Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant.
The 2008 and even the 2009 Lakers would have folded against such an intense defense as the Boston Celtics. I believe Paul Pierce would have fared much better agaist the smaller-yet-quicker Trevor Ariza than he did against the bulk and aggresivness of a motivated Ron Artest.
All this conisdered, did the 2010 Lakers field the best defense in franchise history?
Boston came into the series with a plan to turn the finals into a physical, defensive-orientated series. They succeeded, and they were defeated at their own style of play.
One thing's for sure, the Laker offense did not defeat Boston.
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