I watched a couple of college games today, but I took a break from March Madness to take in the huge matchup between the Rockets and the Lakers. The Rockets of course are on their historic winning streak and the Lakers are trying to stay positive following the news that Pao Gasol will be gone for a while due to injury.

With the injuries, you knew that Kobe Bryant would step his game and put the Lakers on his shoulders. Exactly how the Rockets would respond defensively would determine how successful they would be today. For the most part, I thought Shane Battier did as good a job 1v1 as you could hope, but what really made the difference was the helpside. Here are a few defensive clips from the 2nd half,

Force Baseline to Helpside:

I think more and more the consensus among coaches is to force baseline to help. Everytime Kobe was able to drive middle, he seemed to either create a good shot or get fouled. In my opinion, in a help-recover M2M defense, you must force baseline instead so that you compress the area for the offensive player to operate and help can come easier as well,

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:

I love this screenshot because in it you can clearly see the Rockets communicating on defense. That's what team defense is all about folks, letting your teammates know where helpside should be. These along with other verbal audibles like yelling "shot" or "dead" are things that players should be doing. There are 4 other teammates on the floor, it seems obvious to let each other know what they are doing. It's like an army unit, always communicating so that everyone knows what their job is. Here, I think it's Hayes or McGrady letting Scola know that he needs to be at the strong-side low block for help-side against Kobe. After getting roughed up all night inside, Kobe decides to jack up an ill-advised 3-pointer,


Ordinarily when a guy goes off for 24 points, it doesn't appear that your team did a good shutting that guy down. But when put that in the context of 11-for-33 and 0-for-4 from 3-point, 2-for-4 FTs, 2 assists and 3 turnovers it looks like a whole lot better. Shane Battier is a great defender, but he wasn't going to be able to shut down Kobe by himself. And that is why the Rockets have won 22 straight, because they've bought into each other defensively and are willing to communicate and do whatever it takes to stop teams from scoring.

A great DVD that breaks down the M2M fundamentals is Tom Izzo's Rebounding and Defensive Drills DVD. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans are a 5th seed this year and I wish them luck all the way. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to get all of your hoops fill.