Los Angeles Lakers Primed for a Three-Peat, Defensively Speaking

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 31, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Ron Artest #37, Jordan Farmar #1, Pau Gasol #16 and Lamar Odom #7 huddle in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 17, 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

Popular theory in the NBA says defense wins playoff games and rebounding wins championships, and the Los Angeles Lakers' title in 2010 serves as proof for that theory.

The Lakers may be known for their triangle offense, but the team is defined by their defense, which just happened to be the constant in an otherwise inconsistent regular season.

The Lakers were second only to the Chicago Bulls in rebounding at 44.3 per game during the regular season, and they were third in that category during the playoffs at 42.9 rebounds per game.

It's important to note that the teams ahead of the Lakers were the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, who were both first-round casualties in the postseason.

Rebounding might be the best statistic to measure a team's defense, because a high number shows the opposition is missing shots, and even when the rebounds are offensive, they limit an opponent's possessions.

Those numbers often directly relate to defensive field goal percentage, and the Lakers' 43 percent ranked third behind the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, who were conference finalists and Finals runner-up, respectively.

Although the Lakers ranked fourth in the postseason at 101 points per game, it's clear their championship was won on the strength of a superior defense, and they have a chance to be even better this season.

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It may seem like the Lakers had a pedestrian offseason, but the acquisitions of Theo Ratliff, Matt Barnes, and to a lesser extent Steve Blake, were made for defensive purposes alone.

At 6'7", Barnes gives the Lakers another tall, versatile player who is equally comfortable defending on the perimeter or post, and he has the quickness to defend point guards on occasion.

The Lakers basically have three elite perimeter defenders in Barnes, Kobe Bryant, and Ron Artest, and Barnes' presence will also allow Bryant to roam the court more and play off of his defensive instincts.

Blake will fill in for the departed Jordan Farmar, and he is no defensive genius by any means, but he's not likely to be as mistake-prone as Farmar was either.

Farmar had the athleticism and quickness to be an elite defender at the point guard position, but he lacked the discipline and made a number of mistakes due to bad positioning on the court.

Blake is not the same athlete as Farmar, but he is a heady player with a decent long-range shot, and he is more likely to make the smart play instead of the flashy one.

Ratliff joins a front line that includes Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom, and all three excel on the defensive end of the floor.

Ratliff and Bynum give the Lakers a tough, physical presence, while Odom and Gasol provide fundamental defense based on precision and timing.

Gasol may have the best defensive footwork in the NBA, and Bynum's intimidating presence as a shot-blocker and deterrent could have been the main difference for the Lakers in the Finals.

Odom has the potential to be the best defender on the Lakers roster due to his size, range of motion, and pure basketball instincts, but his Achilles' heel has always been consistency.

However, Los Angeles is accustomed to Odom's inconsistent ways and the Lakers have been able to play through those times in light of Odom's occasional brilliance.

The Lakers have the ability to score points in bunches from any point on the floor, but more importantly they have the defensive ability to limit the opposition's scores from anywhere on the court also.

People will rave about the precision and rhythm of the triangle offense, but if the Lakers are to achieve their goal of a three-peat, it will be once again be done on the defensive end of the court.

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