Defense wins championships is more than just a cliche. It is a statement of fact. Two years ago in 2008, the Celtics won their championship based on their defense. This year they have gone through the Heat, and then the Cavs and Magic, the two top teams in the league this season, with defense.
The Eastern conference teams have all based their play on defense. The teams that the Celtics have had to go through were all among the top teams in the league this past season in defense. In the regular season defensive ratings, the Heat were #2, the Cavs were #6 and the Magic were #4. The Celtics ranked #5 in the regular season in spite of their less than stellar season.
The Western conference, hasn't exactly been a hot bed of defensive activity. The Lakers first faced the Thunder, who were ranked 11th in defense in the regular season. They then faced Utah who were ranked 12th and finally, the Suns who were ranked 26th in the defensive rankings. The Lakers themselves were ranked 9th in the regular season for their defense.
In the playoffs, it hasn't been much different. The Celtics 3 series have been defensive battles. The Celtics held Miami to 88 ppg, Cleveland to 95 ppg, and Orlando to 91 ppg while scoring 97 points per game in the 3 series. The three series out west weren't exactly defensive struggles. The closest thing to tough defense was Oklahoma City, who held the Lakers to 96 ppg. Utah allowed them to reach 109 ppg. And Phoenix allowed them to score a whopping 114 ppg. The Lakers' defense has been allowing teams to score 102 ppg in their three series.
It's safe to say that the Lakers haven't faced anything like the defense that the Celtics have played so far in the playoffs. Whether the Lakers can prepare for that kind defense or play tougher defense themselves remains to be seen, but if the Celtics can continue to play their brand of swarming, physical defense, I really like their chances because in the end, defense will win the championship once again.