After the Celtics historic comeback in game 4, I read quite a few articles about how the Lakers choked. They were up by 24 points and then let the Celtics come back. In reality, the Lakers didn't choke, they were strangled by the Celtics defense. The Lakers raced out to their 24 point lead as the Celtics played little or no defense in the first half. They exerted little or no energy going after rebounds or loose balls. The Lakers had their way and seemingly did whatever they wanted.
Then, in the second half, it was a completely different story. The Celtics came out and played their brand of defense that made them the top defensive team in the NBA this season. Over the regular season, the Celtics held teams to under 42% shooting. They had the biggest differential in the league between points scored and points allowed. After the Celtics ended Houston's 22 game win streak, Tracy McGrady said that he had never seen defense like the Celtics played.
In the second half of game 4, the Celtics put that defense on display. In this game, Paul Pierce showed how a Captain should act. Unlike Kobe's brand of leadership that involves temper tantrums, excuses and berating teammates, Pierce quietly took control of the game and lifted his team with him. He told Doc that he wanted to guard Kobe, thus freeing Ray up to concentrate more on offense and eliminating the need to double Kobe. At the same time, Posey was put on Odom who had the hot hand in the first half, going 6-6 from the floor. Both Pierce and Posey did an incredible job, virtually shutting both players down. Pierce encouraged his teammates, not letting them give up even though they had played poorly and were down by a huge margin. Instead of berating them and yelling, he assumed responsibility and got down into the trenches and led by example. Here is an example of Kobe's brand of leadership. No wonder the team seemed to fall apart when the pressure was on.
Back to the Celtics' defense. No matter where the Lakers went, they faced a wall of Celtics shutting off all paths to the basket. They were strangled by the Celtics' stifling defense. It is funny that most articles talked about how the Lakers gave the game away. They didn't give it away, the Celtics took it, plain and simple. It was the Celtics defense that took the Lakers out of their game.
The Lakers were favored by just about every "expert" going into this series because of their vaunted offense. The Celtics have proved though the first 4 games of this series that defense really does win championships. The Celtics still must win one more game. But, if they continue to play the kind of defense that they played in the second half of game 4, that shouldn't be a problem.