I’m not sure how I feel about a Lakers, Spurs grudge match on a Sunday afternoon. If I were to make a list of things I really dislike, the San Antonio Spurs would fall somewhere between that sore you get on the roof of your mouth after eating Captain Crunch and watching Lifetime. Aren’t Sunday’s supposed to be relaxing? Last time I checked, there’s nothing peaceful about watching Manu Ginobili flop around like Nemo. However, given the pleasant outcome, I’m not complaining.

Well, sort of.

With almost exactly half the season in the rear-view, the Lakers are an impressive 35-8. Project that out over a season, and you’ve got a team likely to eclipse the 65-win mark. For the Lakers to get there, they would need to go 30-9 or better the rest of the way. Since 1990, only six teams have won 65 or more games during the regular season. Only one of those teams didn’t go on to win the NBA Championship that same year – The Dallas Mavericks in 2006-2007.


As for the five that did, Phil Jackson was the guy in the over-sized recliner on the sideline representing four of those teams. A good omen? Absolutely. Enough to pre-order the SI Championship package? Not so fast. Each of those six teams also had one other thing in common: They played defense.


Granted, Tony Longoria and his crew of senior citizens shot a dismal 37.5% from the floor and an even worse 21.7% from downtown on Sunday. However, the Spurs were shooting like Dick Cheney. It appeared that the rims were to blame as much as the Lakers defense. Vladimir Radmanovic still has his astronaut suit on, and for all the talk about a rejuvenated Lakers defense this season, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of consistent energy on that side of the floor.

In the Lakers eight losses, they’ve given up an average of right under 109 points per game. In their thirty-five wins, they only give up an average of 92 points per game, an eye-opening 17 point difference. It almost goes without saying that the Lakers effort on the defensive end of the floor will be the story of the season.

After a home game on Tuesday against Charlotte, the Lakers play twelve of their next sixteen games away from Staples Center. During that stretch, they’ll be dropping it to say hello to Boston, Cleveland, Utah, Phoenix and Denver, all good teams looking to avenge recent losses to the Lakers. By the end of February, we’ll likely know a lot more about the character and defensive toughness of this Lakers squad.

In the games to come, can the Lakers slow down guard penetration? Rotate to wide-open shooters? Take it personally when guys are having career nights against them? If the history books have taught us anything, it’s that we have the right guy calling the shots from the bench.

Let’s just hope the other fourteen guys are listening.

Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation, and also writes on an array of other topics for J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here.

  • http://ld2k.com Chris Manning

    Great points Jason. I completely agree with the defense. And with this team, a lot of the times, like Phil mentioned, it’s EFFORT.

  • http://www.thirdquartercollapse.com Ben Q Rock

    I don’t disagree with your thesis, but I do want to point out that defensive efficiency is a better measure of a team’s defensive skill than points allowed is. Efficiency adjusts points allowed for pace.

    Anyway, this season’s Lakers allow 104.6 points per 100 possessions, which is the fifth-best figure in the league. The 1991-92 Bulls allowed 104.5 points per 100 possessions and ended up winning the title. Don’t worry about the Lakers’ defense. It’s one of the league’s best, it’s good enough to win a championship, and it’s going to win them some games on the rare occasions when the offense (tops in the league, averaging 114 points per 100 possessions) can’t get going.

  • Shmarla

    Right on, Jason! “Offense wins crowds, defense wins games” isn’t just a phrase! Go Lakers!!

  • Wade

    HAha the Mavs… Just reading that made my night. They just had to go break up that GS team. (sigh)Ok back to the Lakers. What’s crazy is we’re talking about this dominate record coming from a team that still feels somewhat NBLDish. I mean in a close game down the stretch, I still feel like if anyone else besides Kobe or Fisher have the ball in their hands they’re going to dribble off their foot or fire up an air-ball. I think that lack of maturity carries over to their D. They show signs of greatness, but I think its more a reflection of sideline B.I.Q. coupled with Kobe. They are going to be completely dominate one day, I just pray this season they have enough to knock out the Cs.
    (is that Celtics or Cavs? hmmm…)

  • http://lakersground.net Lakers4Life


  • PeanutButterSpread

    well, I’d say recently, our opponents allowed points have been a result from blowouts “inflating” the opponent’s scores. If our starters weren’t sitting out fourth periods and we weren’t letting our 3rd string bench mopping up garbage time, those opponents allowed points would be a lot lower …

    Of course, our defense can ALWAYS improve and SHOULD improve, but it’s the nature of the game when the Lakers are top in the league of possessions that no matter what it’d be a high scoring game for both them and their opponents.

    I’d like to see the Lakers keep holding opponents under 100. Even in garbage time, I think our bench is one of the worst at holding big leads in garbage time, but we still hold them under 100 most of the time.

    But our starters get it done most of the time, when they feel like it. With a 35-8 record, there’s not much to complain about. Hopefully as the Lakers starting gearing up for this road trip, they’ll be wrinkling out the iron in their defense.

    They still leave too many shooter wide-open at the three, in my opinion, but I like seeing Drew stepping up and blocking shots now.

  • Dan

    Defense is definitely going to be a huge issue come playoff time. Especially during those games when our shooters shots aren’t falling. I would love to see us grind out a few 92-88 wins when the offense is faltering. Just to get some experience getting a “W” this way before April comes.
    As far as trying to get to a certain number of wins plateau we definately need to keep focus when we have weeks like this against Charlotte, Sota, and Memphis (Thank you Chris Wallace).

  • kobe-wan kenobi

    too early to say
    our schedule has been very easy, actually the easiest in nba, we played more home games than any other team
    i doubt we will end up with only 8 more losses at the end…
    our defense and attitude did not change enough
    most of the time we still have a soft/lazy attitude

  • James

    Amazing that only one of those teams didn’t have Phil on the sidelines (Boston Celtics), and there going down this year. This upcoming road trip is going to build allot of character and defensive toughness in prearation for the championship :=), especially Boston and Cleveland.

  • WifelovesLuke

    I agree with Kobe11Kenobe. Our schedule has been very kind to us and the upcoming road games will give us a better picture of things to come. Keep pace with Celts and Cavs and things will work itself out. I am less concerned about home court in the finals as I am keeping everyone healthy. If Bynum and Ariza would have been healthy last year for the finals, home court for the C’s would not have made a difference.

    As far as defense, we play a high tempo and each team has a lot of possesions. Our numbers are still solid if you factor in the number of possesions per game.

  • kobe-wankenobi

    i am not as positive as you though when it comes to home court adv in finals
    beating cavs at home is going to be pretty daunting (they still did not lose any game yet)
    and celticx we know already aint easy
    we NEED home court adv

  • http://www.j-ri.com J-Ri

    I definitely don’t disagree with the defensive efficiency rating, that’s absolutely a valid point. What I’m talking about is consistent energy on the defensive end of the floor. To this point, the Lakers still play soft defensively in long stretches.

    For example, the undersized Bobcats had 20 uncontested dunks and/or layups through the first three quarters tonight. Effort…

    In our last couple of losses, we broke down defensively and left 3-point shooters WIDE open in clutch situation. Jameer Nelson killed us, and so did Boris Diaw.

    If we bring that energy on defense, we’ll bring home that ring. If we don’t, well…

  • http://ld2k.com Chris Manning

    Everyone should read this article – he was dead on, especially after this piss poor attitude on the defensive end tonight.

  • Boris

    Um, youre pretty dumb if you think winning 65 games means you will win the championship…wake up and smell the coffee idiot…theres likely to be 2 maybe 3 other teams who finish with 65+ wins, and last I checked, only 1 team wins the title