Josh Shipp’s recollection of Showtime was Magic Johnson leading fastbreaks that ended in dunks and layups. Arron Afflalo wears uniform No. 4 because, as a grade-schooler, he watched videos of the Lakers dynasty and was enamored with Byron Scott and the team’s up-and-down style of basketball. If the essence of Hollywood was crystallized in sport, it was through those high-flyin’, fast-breakin’, no-look passin’ Lakers under three-peat entrepreneur and movie star-handsome coach Pat Riley. Even the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, led by zen master Phil Jackson, were as much Hollywood soap opera as they were NBA champions. In the middle of all this glitz, where Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham’s house search causes a tabloid television frenzy and Matt Leinart grabs headlines for reportedly dating Paris Hilton, a balding coach and his blue-collar ballers have made grunting, lateral defensive slides and rebounding relevant. No. 4 UCLA enters today’s Pacific-10 Conference Tournament at Staples Center as the top seed and the overwhelming favorite, and the Bruins win not through grace and style and sublime athleticism, but through defense, teamwork, commitment, rebounding and coach Ben Howland’s calling card — more defense, which is a reflection of hard work and unselfishness. The run n’ gun style employed by Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, a former UCLA assistant, plays to the aesthetically pleasing Hollywood tableau. But fans have embraced Howland’s rigid defensive philosophy that, when it comes to artistry, is more Theo Van Gogh than it is his more famous brother, Vincent. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing,” Howland said. “People, players, fans, they want to win.” Despite a lackluster non-conference home schedule in which a road atlas was needed to find the locations of many of the opponents, the Bruins averaged 10,428 per game at Pauley Pavilion. It was the highest average since 1997-98. “You think of USC football and you think of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and more TV-type stuff, and we’re not like that,” said Afflalo, UCLA’s junior guard and leading scorer at 17.2 points per game. “I think (fans) have come to expect us as winners. I think that’s what it is. “I don’t think they come to the game to see us defend well. They don’t come to the game to see us get up and down and dunk all day. Honestly, I think they enjoy us winning.” Howland cannot recall a light-switch moment in which he realized the importance of defense, but he remembers playing one-on-one basketball in the Goleta boys’ club, and understanding what it took to win. It is a philosophy Howland never forgot. During his days as an assistant at UC Santa Barbara, he frequently watched the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV decimate opponents with 3-ponit shooting and a break-neck style, but he also saw great defense. Whereas many people remember the Showtime Lakers for their offensive wizardy, Howland speaks about Michael Cooper’s defense. Whereas Michael Jordan is best known for his breathtaking dunks and clutch shot after clutch shot, Howland points to Jordan’s stellar defensive ability. “I study the game. This is the game I love,” Howland said. “Why were the Chicago Bulls so good? They played great defense. Everybody talks about the triangle and everything, but at the end of the day, the reason Phil Jackson is the most successful pro coach ever is they play great defense. You have to have a combination of both, but defense is a constant.” UCLA is second in the Pac-10 in scoring defense (60.1 points per game) this season, but the fourth-place rank in field-goal defense (43.1 percent) rankles Howland and his players. A year ago UCLA was second in the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage defense (41.5), the Bruins’ lowest total since winning the 1995 national title. “UCLA did not take possessions off,” Washington State coach Tony Bennett said after a game last week. “A lot of teams in our league, us included, will take possessions off and play for the big run, or the big swing. UCLA doesn’t do that.” Shipp, a third-year sophomore wing and the Bruins’ second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, said he arrived at UCLA with the philosophy of needing to outscore his man for it to be a successful game. Needless to say, Shipp changed his mind about that. “I think people just appreciate winners,” Shipp said. “It might not be the fanciest basketball, but we’re winning so I think people can appreciate the hard work we put in, and the things it takes to win.” When the Bruins lost at Washington on Saturday, Howland’s first point of contention wasn’t UCLA’s 31.3 shooting percentage. His initial comment was about the Bruins being outrebounded by 15. After clinching the Pac-10 regular-season title with a stellar second half of defense at Washington State, Howland talked about how the Bruins needed to be more consistent defensively throughout games. “Defense is all about winning,” Howland said. “It’s all about competing and winning. Sorry it’s not something more flashy.” — Brian Dohn, (818) firstname.lastname@example.org 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!