The title of this post is a bit misleading. In order to be a championship team you have to play defense. However the point is that teams that rely on defense to win games do not win championships in the long run. Much like Riley did with the Knicks, and Jeff Van Gundy in New York and Houston, Spoelstra and Thibodeau will continue to run up impressive regular season win totals as long as they can keep the core guys together and their best players stay relatively healthy. However, in the playoffs they will continue to fall to any team with the offensive ability to take them out.
Let me explain. Teams that play intense defense on a consistent basis will pile up regular season wins because their opponents do not have the time to prepare and then adjust to their defenses. However, in a 7 game series players get time to adjust and adapt to a teams defensive pressure. A good offensive team simply needs to be good enough defensively to compete early in the series. Avoid getting swept, stretch it out to 5-6 games and the tide will turn in the offensive teams favor.
We saw that in last years NBA Finals. The Dallas Mavericks won that series by surviving the first 4 games. Miami by only coming out with a 2-2 split after clearly controlling the pace and style of the first four games, was dead on arrival by game 5. Actually you saw it in game 4 if you looked closely, by the 2nd half of game 4 Miami was getting stops because the Dallas players simply missed shots. Dallas by the end of game 4 was able to get a quality shot anytime they wanted and they knew it. Dirk in his post game comments said the Mavs should have won the game by double digits, and then went on to list about 7 wide open shots that the team missed in the last 3 minutes of the game. Well by games 5 and 6 the Mavs continued to get those shots but the difference was they didn't miss those shots. The result the Mavs shot the Heat out of the gym in those two games.
The Miami Heat did not stop playing defense, the Mavs offense adapted, they began to move the ball with quicker precision and their players adapted to the fact that they had to be more decisive with the ball and play quicker. Now it took 3 and a half games for the Mavs to condition themselves to do it, but it happened. Nor was the 2011 NBA finals a fluke. We saw it in New York time and time again during the 90s, the Bulls, Pacers, or Houston would survive the early phase of the series and then in games 5,6,and 7 the Knicks could not get stops at the rate they were early in the series. Now when our beloved Knicks could not get stops, they lacked the offensive wherewithal to outscore their opponents and would succumb.
That is why I posted earlier that D'Antoni can win a title before Thibodeau and Spoelstra. The Knicks do not have to become a better defensive team than the Heat or the Bulls, they just have to become good enough defensively to compete and survive against those teams early in a series. A defensive oriented team is like a boxer who wins all their fights by 2nd round knock outs, when that fighter faces a skilled boxer, if the boxer can survive the early rounds of the fight, he will win because he will pile up rounds with his superior boxing skills. Same thing when you face teams coached by Riley disciples. If you can play enough defense to hang close and let your offense maybe steal a couple of games with a few timely buckets down the stretch, the longer the series goes the easier it will be for your offense to overcome their defense, and since the easiest way to beat both teams is to score 100 points and dare them to keep up!
The Knicks do not have to become a better defensive team than the heat or the Bulls, but they do need to become a good enough defensive team to compete.