The Lakers are trying to figure out how to beat the Boston Celtics. It's the only thing on their minds. 'How can we beat the Celtics'… 'how can we avoid being embarrassed again?'…
"The thought process is that you want to win a championship. In order to beat a Boston, you've got to be a better defensive team than Boston," Kobe Bryant said. "If you want to hoist that trophy at the end of the year, we've got to be a great defensive team. That's the only way to get it done."
And I'll admit, the Lakers have been playing better defense this year. The beauty of this is that they're setting themselves up to get smoked again. The reason is their over-reliance on zone defense.
"Kurt's been pestering me for a year or so about doing some things defensively that I was reluctant to do," Jackson said. "I come from the old school where you play man [defense], and you have that man and that's your primary goal."
The Lakers now use a lot of zone principles and try to keep the ball on one side of the court.
They put pressure on the ballhandler to try to force him to a particular side and then often overload the area by sending an extra defender to stand down near the post, essentially shifting the defense from man-to-man to zone.
The problem with this is the Celtics have Rajon Rondo… and the Lakers have no one on their team that can force Rajon to do anything he doesn't want to do. Even if he goes where they want, and they shift into a zone, he can split any defenders they throw at him and set up camp in the lane. Once he's there, he can pick the guy he wants to pass to.
Beyond that, one back-pick on the opposite side will open up wide open shots. One skip pass later and the whole thing falls to crap. So enjoy your modest success while it lasts, Lakers. I look forward to demolishing your easily-exploited defense on Christmas day.
As for today: We'll get our first look at the Elton Brand-led Sixers. This will be a good test for the C's. The Sixers match up well against the Celtics… and this might come down to bench vs. bench in the end. Then again, the Sixers haven't quite figured out how to play with each other… so they might have some lapses that let the Celtics blow this thing open.
Herald: Doc plenty thankful | Posey lifts Hornets | Globe: Allen needed a lift last year | Wyc energized by Celtics | Camerato: 76ers-Celtics preview | Patriot Ledger: Brand adds concern for Celtics | Rondo bringing game to new heights | Iverson fined for skipping practice | Marbury suspended