If Mike Brown were a presidential candidate then the platform he’d run on would be national defense. Brown’s basketball pedigree is such that he thinks defense first and everything else a distant second. For most of his inaugural season as the Lakers head coach Brown had his team playing a stifling brand of D not seen in purple in gold in a quite some time.
Then March rolled around the Lakers either got caught up in the madness or just decided to focus on one end of the court at a time.
For the most part the Lakers had struggled to put points on the board. Their offense was limited to Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. As the big three went so too did L.A.’s offensive production. How they were able to grind out victories was a result of playing effective half court offense while mixing in smothering defense.
It wasn’t the prettiest formula for success but the Lakers were getting by.
Now at days they seem content to try and outscore the opposition without any concern for keeping points off the board. In their last 20 games the Lakers have allowed their opponents to crack the 100-point barrier 11 times. Prior to that stretch there were only 8 instances of another team hanging 100 or more on the Lake Show for the entire season.
What has changed?
Some may say that the league was lagging in offensive production due to the lockout shortened preseason. The numbers do reflect that as offense is down this season. Another factor could be the addition of Ramon Sessions who as energized the Laker offense. His presence has created a newfound scoring punch that has perhaps diminished the defensive focus.
With regards to both theories there is no arguing that the Lakers were much better in their defensive rotations and communication early in the season regardless of how sloppy NBA play was on offense. As for the arrival of Sessions, the Lakers defensive woes were well underway prior to his arrival.
Another theory popular with the conspiracy crowd is that Mike Brown has lost the locker room and players are breaking from his teachings instead relying on their own instincts. It would certainly explain why a defensive minded coach suddenly has no explanation for his team’s defensive struggles. But that like so much else in the sports world is pure speculation.
No matter the specific reason why the Lakers are no longer defending like champs they’ll need to get back on track sooner than later. Playoff basketball is a grind. Teams that place heavy emphasis on offense will usually find their seasons cut shorter than expected. Mike D’Antonio’s teams have proven that theory correct time and time again.
Coach Brown has got to get his team dialed in on defense if the Lakers are to take the Western Conference crown. Even with Sessions running the show there is no chance the Lakers can out gun squads like Oklahoma City. Their only hope is to operate in a highly efficient half court offense while playing a smothering brand of full court defense. Any other approach would make for another disastrous playoff exit.