Are the Los Angeles Lakers Just as Good as the Boston Celtics, Defensively?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 4, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 03:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics looks to pass against Ron Artest #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game One of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 3, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Many people assumed the 2010 NBA Finals would be a battle of the Boston Celtics' feared defense, and the Los Angeles Lakers' precision offense, but someone forgot to mention the Lakers are a pretty good defensive team too.

All season long Los Angeles has been among the NBA's best defensive teams, but their performance on that end of the floor tends to be overshadowed by the offensive brilliance of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

In fact, the Lakers' defense was the most consistent part of a very inconsistent regular season for the defending NBA champions, and once the postseason began they turned it up another level.

The Lakers have allowed 43 percent shooting from the field, 31 percent from three point range, and 43 rebounds per game, all which are the best in the 2010 NBA postseason.

In Game One of the Finals the Lakers made those numbers hold up as they held the Celtics to 89 points, out rebounded them 42-31, and had an amazing 16 second chance points to the Celtics' zero.

It was a truly dominant defensive performance by the Lakers, but considering the teams Los Angeles had to conquer in order to arrive at this point, it should hardly be unexpected.

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Boston is a decent offensive team, but they're not the Phoenix Suns, and Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are not Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire, nor does anyone on the Celtics' roster have the scoring potential of Kevin Durant.

Rondo is a great point guard, but his lack of a perimeter game didn't put the same type of pressure on the Lakers' guards like Nash, and Utah's Deron Williams, did in the earlier rounds.

Likewise, Garnett is a great post player, but he lacks the explosiveness of a player like Stoudemire, who constantly tested the strength of the Lakers' interior players.

Phoenix was the best offensive team in the NBA and the postseason, and their ability to place four players in the game who are all capable of hitting perimeter shots caused headaches for the Lakers.

That's not the case for the Celtics, who can only boast of Ray Allen as a consistent threat from the perimeter, so in that regard, defense is actually easier for the Lakers against the Celtics, because they are able to crowd the paint without fear of being torched from the outside.

Boston is used to imposing their defensive wills on opponents but that's hard to do when the opposition is longer, quicker, and younger as the Lakers are.

The Celtics may find their playoff competition in the East left them ill-prepared for the Lakers, because Los Angeles also may be the most balanced offensive team Boston has faced this year.

Boston defeated Orlando, who had a dominant post presence in Dwight Howard and a score of perimeter shooters to surround him, but the Magic didn't have the offensive balance the Lakers have in the paint and perimeter.

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are the NBA's best post-perimeter combination, and the Celtics have no players on their roster capable of defending either in a one on one situation.

But Boston's best offensive player, Paul Pierce, was hounded by the Lakers' Ron Artest, and even though he did manage to score 24 points in Game One, Artest made him work for every single point.

Much like the Lakers' defense made the Celtics struggle for every basket they scored, whether it was Bryant and Derek Fisher preventing Rondo from penetrating the lane, or Gasol swatting his shot away once he eventually got there.

The Celtics looked old and tired, and the defense which was their signature in 2008 was nowhere to be found against a determined and focused Lakers' team in Game One.

The Lakers were the better offensive team, and amazingly to some, they were the better defensive team as well, which shouldn't come as a surprise unless you hadn't been paying much attention throughout the playoffs.

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