Basketball's a two-way sport. You need to have skills at both ends of the floor, because other teams will surely attack you. If a team fails to attack an opposing player, it frees them up to concentrate solely on the things they're the best at, and that's how a player, especially a great one, can kill you.
Ty Lawson understands this well, and he told Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski in an interview that he fully grasps his duty in Houston, and that's to take things straight at the West's cadre of star point guards. Starting with Golden State's reigning MVP Stephen Curry.
Lawson told Woj, "Steph Curry needs someone to go back at him. I thought Steph was just chillin' on defense, and then going crazy on offense."
Ty isn't wrong.
Despite playing key minutes on one of the best Rockets teams since the mid-'90s, there's no denying Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni just didn't have what it took to keep Curry (and the other West points) honest.
Terry averaged 9.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 42.5 percent shooting in the playoffs, while Prigioni, inbound steals aside, was even more abysmal. He sported playoff averages of 3.1 points, 1.1 rebound and 2.3 assists on 33.3 percent shooting.
These two had trouble putting any pressure on J.J. Barea and Austin Rivers, let alone Chris Paul and Steph Curry.
Lawson knows great offensive players can't really be contained. Curry is going to get his and shoot lights out, Paul will continue to be the ultimate floor general on the offensive side and Russell Westbrook will always be ready to explode at any second regardless of who's guarding him.
But Lawson recognizes that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. "I'm not saying, 'Oh, I'm going to stop Steph,' but just make him work harder at the other end."
Lawson brings career averages of 14.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists on 46.6 percent shooting to the party, and his premium skills in driving to the bucket and uncanny ability to get to the line (he's averaged 5.2 free throws a game over the last three seasons) is enough to put pressure on any opposing point guard.
Lawson may not be quite elite, but he's from the school of very good, and he's someone opposing defenders will need to account and game plan for at all times when facing the Rockets.
This is not to suggest that players like Curry, Paul and Westbrook can't assert themselves at the defensive end. History and statistics have shown all three to be good-to-very-good defenders, depending on matchup. But where these superstars can be attacked is by making sure not only are they always working, but also always working hard.
"He can shoot when he got his legs under him... he wasn't really working at the other end."
Four quarters of trying to keep Lawson's determined drives out of the paint is certain to make those jump shot legs just a bit weaker than standing around the three-point line next to Terry or Prigioni, and the ability of the Rockets to counter with Patrick Beverley to make guys also work at the other end ensures no easy night's at either side for anyone this season.
Not even the reigning MVP.