Along with Ron Artest, the Lakers have added something brand new this year—DEFENSE!
Maybe it’s due to the fact that Ron Artest has long been considered one of the best lock-down defenders in the NBA.
It might also be that the coaching has finally gotten through to the players.
It could also be that knowing they are the DEFENDING NBA Champs and knowing that they must DEFEND their title, the players themselves have made team defense their number one priority.
More than likely it is a combination of all three: the addition of Artest, the coaching and the intense desire to defend their title.
But whatever it is the Lakers after 20 games are the number one rated defense overall. In points allowed, they are ranked eighth. Last season, they were ranked in the bottom tier of the NBA.
To date, the Lakers have only allowed 95.3 points per game while scoring the league’s fifth-highest average 104.4.
The number one rated offense and the Lakers’ closest rival in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets, have scored an average of 109.points per game, about 4.5 points more than the Lakers.
But the Nuggets have allowed opponents to average 101.72 points per game, nearly 6.5 points more than the Lakers.
The Lakers are second in the NBA in point differential (9.1), just a shade behind the Celtics (9.4).
In extending their winning streak to ten games last night, they held the Utah Jazz, who were averaging over 100 points, to just 77. It may be hard to believe but the Lakers’ smothering defense held the Jazz to a mere six points in the final quarter.
No, that’s not a typo. Six points. From late in the third quarter and into the fourth, the Lakers went on a 27-2 run.
They opened the fourth quarter with a 20-0 run. The Lakers played shutout ball for seven-and-a-half minutes before the Jazz finally made a basket.
During their present ten-game winning streak, the Lakers have allowed only one opponent to score more than 100 points. That was the Miami Heat in a game that the Lakers won on Kobe Bryant’s incredible buzzer-beating three-pointer, 108-107.
I know they have only completed a quarter of the season and most of it at Staples Center. But if they can take this same defensive mindset on the road, the final three-quarters of the season could be just as good as the first.