Lakers stamped as NBA title favorites

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‘D’ IS THE REASON: LeBron James locks up Clippers star Kawhi Leonard in their NBA showcase rivalry on March 8 at Staples Center. The Lakers beat the Clips for the first time this season 112-103. (Photo by Nick Koza for Inglewood Today)

By Tamara Latta, IT Contributor

If defense wins championships as forecast by sports pundits, then the Lakers are very much the favorites to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy this season. The entire basketball universe was served notice by the Lakers in their emphatic home victories over the Clippers and Bucks.

“It’s a really good weekend for us, playing against two of the best teams, the top two teams in the league with us as far as record-wise,” LeBron James said. “I just think we kept our composure throughout the whole game.”

The Lakers put hushed lips mark on all the chatter that unfolded before facing two of the top teams in the east and west last week. They won both of them in a playoff like atmosphere against the Clippers and Milwaukee. But not only did they win both games, they did a great job at exploiting the Bucks and Clippers weaknesses on defense.

In fact, the Lakers are showcasing their defensive muscle on every team league right now. James and Davis have quickly emerged to be two of the best defenders in the NBA. Numbers don’t lie. The dynamic duo’s are listed in the top five of most defensive statistical categories, including blocks (6.9) and steals (8.6) per game, all the while holding teams to just 34.2 percent.

REVERSE TO FUTURE: Lakers power forward Anthony Davis received a masterful dish from LeBron James for a reverse slam dunk against the Clippers on March 8 at Staples. (Photo by Nick Koza for Inglewood Today)

But the most impressive aspect to this Lakers squad is LeBron James! LeBron is playing some of his best basketball at 35-years-old.

“Probably one of the smartest players to ever play basketball,” Rivers said. “I think we get lost in LeBron’s physicality too much, and we should think about his brain more. His brain is what makes him great. There are a lot of people in the league with LeBron’s body. There’s no one in the league with his brain.”

Needless to say, the Lakers are a great defensive team. This is similar to the defense Vogel installed while coaching the Indiana Pacers, and that D got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Most noticeable t about the Lakers defense is they’re maddeningly consistent. And their defense keeps them in a lot of games even if they do not play well on offense. They have won the last 11/12 games.

Though, we haven’t heard many mentions about Davis arguably being the best defensive (defender) in the NBA. He’s been all about that action. He makes plays defensively precisely when the team needs it the most and protects the rim when a teammate is beat on drives. He’s a great weak-side shot blocker, disruptor, makes steals and deflections in nearly every game. He does it all and should more than likely win the DPOY this year.

The Lakers will need to put together another prominent defensive scheme this week as they face two solid teams in the west; Denver and Houston. At the moment, the Rockets and Nuggets are brimming with confidence and are competing at a high level, so the Lakers will need to duplicate the same energy they played with against their top two foes.

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