The phenomenon you are referring to is known as Parkinson's Law, which states "Work expands to fill the available time for its completion." 

That is, people have a tendency to pace themselves to finish things just in time for the deadline. I don't think it is a result of laziness, but more a consequence that there is always more to do than time to do it, so you prioritize things according to when you have to deliver them.

The best solution to the deadline dilemma, in my experience, is an iterative process that breaks the project into small frequent deliverables. This keeps the sense of urgency up and also helps to keep the estimates realistic as it is much easier to estimate a small task than a larger one. Be careful though to give the developers a lot of input and control over the deadlines. A manager who dictates a million tiny deadlines = a micromanager.