The Lakers defense needs to turn up the intensity. The Rockets' reserves turned in a stellar effort in the Big Easy. The Celtics turn the ball over way, way too often for a championship-caliber team. Take a turn for the better through the TrueHoop Network:
Kurt Helin of Forum Blue and Gold: "The Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.
I typed that sentence roughly 8 million times in the preseason and the first month of games. But as the season has moved on and wins kept piling up, the early season mantra has faded out. The offense has been beautiful, a shiny toy that distracts us from a defense that is at times brilliant and at times frustrating.
But the mantra remains true. It is the Lakers defense that is the key to a title - and now is the time to start really ratcheting it up...
[W]e all know the Lakers have the personnel to play good defense. The question is are they focused on it. Right now, starting in the next stretch, they need to get that laser focus back.
The Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them."
Anup Shah of Rockets Buzz: "With Yao out with flu-like symptoms, the Rockets had lost their primary playmaker, their best free throw shooter, and the team leader in points/rebounds/blocks. One player sat out. Ten players stepped up.
... For nearly 48 minutes, the Rockets played as a unified basketball team, and the strength of this team was greater than the sum of its parts.
... This game was exactly what the Rockets needed. With Yao out, the team had a chance to come together and fill the void he left. As the season continues, this team will draw on tonight's experience to play as a cohesive unit. The Rockets demonstrated tonight that they have the potential to play at the highest caliber, even without their superstars.
Chris Paul might have put up a pretty stat line tonight, but the Rockets' team defense put up a Win."
Ryan Schwan of Hornets247: "I know this isn't a popular idea, and I can already hear the outraged grumbling that these are athletes who shouldn't be tired, but once again Paul and Butler played 44 minutes. West played 42. Chandler played 38. These sorts of minutes have been going on for half a dozen games now. Chandler is on a gimpy ankle. West has to bounce on a ball when he's on the bench to keep his back from tightening up. Butler is required to run off curls all the time and take the other team's toughest offensive player, and Paul has the ball in his hands most of the game and is always receiving contact. That's just too many minutes, and it showed as the jumpers in the fourth fell mostly short, which is a sign of tired legs. They aren't going to be able to keep this up for another month without breaking down."
(Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein, Layne Murdoch, Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)