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NBA Playoffs 2011: Is Point Guard Defense a Point of Concern for the LA Lakers?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IApril 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31:  Jose Barea #11 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles past Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 31, 2011 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the NBA's most talented and experienced team heading into the NBA Playoffs, but that doesn't mean there are no issues surrounding their quest for a third consecutive NBA title.

There are the usual questions about center Andrew Bynum's health, the recent news swirling around recent fines levied by the NBA to Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, and the inability of the Lakers to guard opposing point guards.

If that last one seems familiar it's because the Lakers have had trouble defending bigger, stronger and quicker point guards for the past few seasons. Could this be the year that fundamental flaw comes back to haunt the team?

The point guard position is the one matchup that any of the Lakers potential playoff opponents should dominate, but they also have to use that advantage to capitalize in other areas.

For instance, New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul should win his matchup with either Derek Fisher or Steve Blake in the first round of the playoffs, but the Hornets don't have the necessary caliber of talent to make the Lakers pay at any other position.

However, if the Lakers do prevail over the Hornets, each of their next potential opponents have multiple options to consider once the Lakers perimeter defenses have been penetrated.

Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks can not hurt the Lakers with his quickness, but he is bigger than either Blake or Fisher, and he is excellent at using his strength to get in the lane.

But with no true inside scoring presence, the Mavericks are forced to rely on jump shots, which essentially neutralizes any advantage that penetration might establish.

The Lakers understand that most penetration by the Mavericks will usually result in a pass back out to the perimeter and that knowledge makes it easier to cover Dallas' outside shooters.

If Portland is the Lakers second round opponent, they present a different challenge because they have an established interior scoring threat in LaMarcus Aldridge, and point guard Andre Miller usually penetrates looking to score rather than pass.

Miller's penetration forces the Lakers big men to defend the rim and the Blazers have other players such as Gerald Wallace, Brandon Roy and Nicolas Batum, who are adept at cutting to the basket when the defense collapses.

When the Lakers are being hurt by the penetration of an opposing point guard, coach Phil Jackson usually assigns Kobe Bryant with the task of defending him and the strategy usually works.

Bryant's own length and quickness serve as a decent deterrent for penetration but it leaves the Lakers vulnerable on other parts of the court.

So far the Lakers have been able to overcome this flaw by communicating on defense and providing extra help when a mismatch is created, but if there is any real way to beat the Lakers in a seven game series, it will begin at the point of attack.

In the past the Lakers have been hurt in the playoffs by teams who have point guards that are capable of applying consistent pressure with their penetration, and making good decisions once they get to the rim.

It is a delicate balancing act that requires a combination of knowing when to attack the rim to score, and understanding when an advantage has been created on the perimeter.

The Lakers have proved that they can still win championships despite that basic fundamental flaw, but will it finally come back to haunt them this season?

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