Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sturm: Mavericks defense giving Lakers' big men little shot in series

Mavericks center Tyson Chandler (6) and Dallas Mavericks small forward Shawn Marion (0) defend Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) during the second quarter of play in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, on May 4, 2011.
One of the most worn-out cliches in the entire world of sports is that "defense wins championships." We all say it. We all believe it. And yet, for years when the Dallas Mavericks would assemble their best chance to win a championship, it seemed it was seldom based on defense.
You play the cards you are dealt (or in personnel collection, the cards you are able to deal yourself) and for many reasons, defense was never the identity of this thing. And they continue to chase a championship to this very day.
But, in this run - which may or may not be a historic journey - it sure appears that defense is the calling card of this team from Dallas which has now won 6 of its 8 playoff games and has won more road playoff games in one week than they had since their haunting crash-and-burn in Miami in 2006.
Make no mistake; they were awesome at times offensively on Wednesday night at the Staples Center. But, that has been true for years since Dirk Nowitzki has been on this team. Dirk has ebbed and flowed in his time as a Maverick, but you seldom felt that Dallas was unsuccessful because their offense was lacking.
Instead, the Mavericks defeated the Lakers (again) last night because they have finally found a defense. And, I don't mean a defense that can trouble Minnesota or Golden State in February. I mean a defense that has the world champion Los Angeles Lakers frustrated. A defense that has the ability to stand its ground and defend the paint and the rim. A defense that doesn't remind you in any way, shape, or form of the Erick Dampier/Raef LaFrentz/Shawn Bradley defenses of the past. Those passive and grounded big men did take up some space, but never presented much of a challenge to those relentless offenses that attack the rim.

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