To put it simply, I do not think Ron Artest's defense on Lebron James was terrible. While I support the notion that Lebron James played a great individual game, played great team basketball, and helped his team to victory; I cannot support the assertion that the defense played by Ron Artest on Lebron James was terrible.
Thinking back to yonder days of yore, I remember an article posted here many moons ago where it was discussed that Milwaukee scored a lot of points against a Laker defense that, at first glance, appeared terrible. But after a rewatch, CA Clark discovered the Milwaukee Bucks took shots the Lakers would want them to take. Therefore, it was not bad defense, Milwaukee was hitting the shots, tough shots, that they were being given. The coaching staff was pleased with the shots taken, and the Milwaukee Bucks played good basketball. Eventually, things usually even out and the Lakers win (enter biased fan logic).
On Christmas, I believe the defense on Lebron James by Ron Artest was not terrible at all, rather, Lebron took many shots the Lakers would have him take; coincidentally, he hit them. Thing is, it's Christmas, the Lakers got blown out, and everyone's ready to look for a scapegoat. Fortunately, it's not armaggeddon yet, and that only counted as one game. At least, thats what I think, and I'm gonna go ahead and stick with that.
I've talked too much, and showed too little. I need some hoopdata, and I need it now.
Where is Lebron James the deadliest? At the rim, where he makes 70% of his shots.
Where is Lebron James the least deadliest? on the perimeter, not behind the arc, where he makes around 27% of his shots.
Where is another spot Lebron James is not the most dangerous at? Behind the three point line, where he makes around 33% of his shots.
Therefore, when guarding Mr. James in a playoff series, a team will goad Lebron into shooting jump shots and three pointers, as the Boston Celtics did, neutering his most potent scoring option, taking away his confidence, keeping him off the free throw line, and ultimately, through the course of a 7 game series, eliminating his teams chances at victory by making Lebron into another accessory player. He may be an assist giver, but he will not be the interior threat that destroys the opposition. This evidence was never clearer than last year when Lebron found himself hopeless against a Celtics opposition that devoted itself to sealing off the paint, and making Lebron a perimeter player. But wait!?!?! Didn't Lebron baptize the Celtics in game 3 of that series, scoring so much that Cleveland fans went blind in derision, and Celtics fans were left reeling? That game proves the point. In that game (http://www.hoopdata.com/boxscore.aspx?id=300507002) Lebron got to the rim (7-8 from up close), and shot uncharacteristically good from the perimeter (around 50% from perimeter including 3PT shots). The honeymoon ended, however, when the paint sealed up and Lebron shot 29% from the field for the rest of the series. Dreams ended, actual basketball happened (a simple regression to the mean). Everyone said Lebron James quit, when all he did was play how he's always played.
Enter Christmas. Lebron shot 4 times close to the rim (50%), and ten times at a distance from the perimeter (60%). Lebron James shot better from outside (that is, 16 feet from the rim and beyond) than he did AT THE RIM.
Enter Laker fans experiencing nervousness. Exit logic. Enter fingers pointing. People may say Artest played "bad" defense; but Artest played the exact defense that the coaching staff told him to play (the only Laker, mind you, with a positive +/- of 2). He pushed Lebron baseline where help defense was supposed to funnel him , he played him to shoot the outside shot, but kept body contact away as to avoid the foul (as evidenced by Lebrons paltry 6 FTA[SIX! LBJ shot SIX free throws!]) that leads to free throws, and forced him into jumper after jumper, pass after pass. One of those made FGs our author on SSR has credited Lebron James with on Ron Artest came when, on a break, Artest caught up to Lebron, slowed him, then funneled him baseline correctly, then Kobe was unable to seal Lebron, as he was supposed to, and the made layup was not avoided. That is not an error by Artest. Lebron was once again credited with many assists to players who hit their shots after Lebron played the ball intelligently to them. Is Lebron passing a bad thing? No. His assist numbers are not a concern, I'll further contend. As evidenced in the series against Boston, Lebrons assist numbers were as healthy as ever, but since he was funneled into low percentage shots, his team was unable to emerge victorious.
Thing is, Lebron and his teammates hit the outside shot on Christmas. Is this a knock on Lebron, or a sneaky knock on the Heat? Is this even a bad thing for the Lakers? No and no. The defense on Lebron, I contest, was not the problem, he simply had a hot hand.
Enter real issue. Other players on the Heat were inexcusably allowed to fillet the Lakers with MUCH HIGHER PERCENTAGE looks. Who, you ask? Well, Chris Bosh was 8-10 AT THE RIM. Dwayne Wade was 3-6 AT THE RIM. It seems they were more effective in doing what they do best. The two guys who are easier to keep away from the rim, easier to control (as evidenced, again, by Boston's control of the two players in the Heats previous 2 games vs. Boston earlier in the season) were allowed to exert maximum game changing offensive potency on the Lakers. Chris Bosh to a full extent, Dwayne Wade to a lesser, yet still potent, effect. O, potent Bosh, how you surprised us so.
Lastly, most importantly, I must say it again, Chris Bosh and Miami's interior defense destroyed the Lakers. Let it be known. Chris Bosh did whatever he wanted to the Los Angeles Lakers, and not a word has been said about it. The Miami Heats potent interior defense showed championship poise and gave the Lakers a lesson in inside presence, rebounding, and defensive stopping power.
If that last paragraph didn't make you throw up in your mouth just enough to taste some half digested leftover Christmas turkey, then I've got a jersey I want to sell you.
Thank you for your time. It is greatly appreciated.