NBA about 'D'

Apr 22, 2008 7:37 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | Defense wins championships.

Four years ago in the NBA Finals, did the high-flying Lakers offense win the title or the blue-collar, physical Detroit defense? The Spurs have won four NBA titles since 1999 with defense the backbone of their run, including last season.

Michael Jordan may have been best known for his offense, but it was the team’s defense from 1996-98 that netted the Chicago Bulls three straight titles. The same was true for the Lakers during their recent run. Let’s look at Jordan’s Bulls. When Jordan won his last championship in 1998, the Bulls were a great defensive team.

Chicago went 13-6-1 in games under the total during the 1998 playoffs. In 2003, the Spurs went 15-8-1 under the total on their way to winning the title. The 2004 champ Pistons went 14-8-1 under the total.

Former Pistons’ coach Larry Brown was instrumental in teaching and motivating the Pistons defensively. The Pistons scored just 78 points in Game 1 against the Nets, but still won by 22 points, 78-56! Detroit went on to win the 2004 NBA title, stunning the Lakers as a 7-1 series dog. Winning ugly is secondary to winning, of course.

Dwyane Wade and defense led the Miami Heat to the NBA title in 2006? The Heat went a solid 10-2 under the total their final 12 playoff games, which concluded with a 4-game winning streak over Dallas in the Finals. In the Eastern Conference championship series win over Detroit, all six games went under the total.

In 2004, there were 37 unders and 27 overs in the NBA playoffs. In 2006, the under was 14-4 from the Conference Finals to the NBA Finals.

Last season in the Finals, the Spurs swept by holding the Cavaliers to 76, 92, 72 and 82 points. Three of the four games went under the total.

Sometimes games are blowouts and teams will coast on defense or have fun trying to score in the fourth quarter, rather than work hard playing defense. This is human nature, as it’s an 82-game regular season, so it’s difficult and tiring to play all out on defense for six months.

Once the playoffs roll around, there are fewer one-sided games and opportunities to coast.The last four seasons, the under is 47-34 combined in the Eastern/Western Conference Finals and the NBA Finals.

These NBA playoffs are going to be interesting for several reasons. We might find outstanding defensive coaches squaring off against each other, like Avery Johnson (Mavericks), Jerry Sloan (Jazz), Phil Jackson (Lakers) and Gregg Popovich (Spurs).

Except plenty of rough, physical play. In addition, there will be interesting contrast of styles in the West with run-and-gun fast break teams (Suns, Nuggets, Lakers) squaring off against monster-defensive teams like the Rockets and Spurs.

Remember that the last three seasons the offensive-minded Suns have gotten knocked out by the Spurs and Mavericks, one reason they traded for Shaq. Chalk up another triumph of defense over offense!