One man, especially a big man with cat-like quickness, can make a huge impact on the defense, but it doesn't work if guards are constantly breaking down and letting their men get into the lane. A defensive guru can draw up assignments and rotations till his dry erase marker goes dry. But it means nothing if the players don't care enough to execute every play down the court.
The most pleasantly refreshing surprise to come out of this season has been the top to bottom, everyone-buys-in, commitment to team defense. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen weren't known for defense any more than Rip Hamilton was known for defense before he got to Detroit. But each is talented enough to know where they should be on rotations and each has the motor and motivation to do what it takes to win. And when it works, when they see it work, it only fuels the fire. See the following quotes from the game recap:
"Our philosophy is that defense is going to win games for us," Garnett said. "We're trying to have the defense fuel the offense, and it's been working."
"That's going to be our staple pretty much all year long," Pierce said. "We're going to take pride on the defensive end."When you get 12 guys committed and on the same page, night in and night out, anything is possible," Pierce added. "That's what we have right now."
It sure sounds like they are committed. And now that they have a taste of how many wins a great defense can bring, we can hope that they'll be more and more motivated to bring it every night. Again, the Pistons were able to make it a team-pride thing. They wanted that identity. They knew that it only fed into the psyche of the opponents. Once the other team started getting down, it looked like an enormous uphill battle to get back into the game. It is the same way now for C's opponents.
"Their defense is very aggressive," Bosh said. "They are very long and athletic and the plays we usually make just weren't there. What we need to take from this game is to see how they play defense."
"They played hard and took us out of what we wanted to do," Humphries said. "They made it tough for Jose [Calderon] and our guards to get the rhythm they usually get."
I love that. How great is it to hear teams talk about getting out of what they want to do?
For all the attention the offensive players get on this team, it is the team defense that wins the games. It isn't the "big three" so much as it is the Three Musketeers attitude of "all for one and one for all."